NBA playoff scores 2017: James Harden overtakes Russell Westbrook in 4th quarter

Game 2 of Rockets-Thunder was our best game, and the two MVP candidates duked it out until the final frame.

James Harden and Russell Westbrook provided us one helluva Game 2 slugfest, albeit with a fourth quarter that will turn into the biggest talking point for the next 24 hours. Hold up — we’ll get to that in a little bit. Right now, let’s appreciate what we have in these two players.

Look at these stat lines they recorded on Wednesday. Good grief.

  • Russell Westbrook: 51 points, 10 rebounds, 13 assists, four steals
  • James Harden: 35 points, four rebounds, eight assists

Over and over again, those two went at each other. At one point, Harden was shooting terribly from the floor, but he finished with a respectable 7-of-17 shooting from the floor. Westbrook’s shooting, going 4-of-18 in the fourth quarter and 17-of-43 overall, was clearly much, must different. Still, both sides gave us remarkable basketball for most of 48 minutes.

Here was one particularly absurd play from Westbrook.

Despite his stat line, though, he wasn’t really having it post-game.

Let’s talk about it, then. Let’s talk about those shots. Here were my thoughts following the game.

Westbrook’s fourth quarter shooting will dominate the conversation.

I am not here to defend Westbrook, because 4-of-18 no matter the circumstances is a very bad quarter. I do think that this was a Thunder-approved strategy, and Westbrook attempting to take over was their best bet — one that obviously backfired.

Consider the end of the third quarter. When Westbrook went to the bench up 86-74 with two minutes left in the third quarter, the Rockets immediately closed the quarter on a 12-3 run. Consider the lineup he finished much of the fourth quarter with: Steven Adams, Victor Oladipo, Andre Roberson, and Jerami Grant. Would you trust any of them with an open three? Roberson and Oladipo each missed wide open ones in the final five minutes.

Westbrook played a bad fourth quarter and settled for terrible shots as the clock winded down, and nobody can deny that. It’s incredible that a 51-point triple-double can be considered a bad game at this point, but anyone who takes 43 shots opens themselves up for this type of criticism. There will be a lot of takes over the next 24 hours about whether Westbrook was right, wrong, selfish, terrible, or only playing this game for himself. It’s also important to realize: to an extent, this is what the Thunder wanted.

Thunder head coach Billy Donovan could have opted for a more offensive-friendly approach, with Taj Gibson or Doug McDermott or Kyle Singler playing more minutes. But Oklahoma City knew that trying to outscore the Rockets, who had a historic offense this season, would never work. They chose to focus on defense, give Westbrook the ball, and hoped his brilliance could outplay everything.

Oklahoma City may have screwed up in one major way, though

From J.A. Sherman at Welcome to Loud City:

If you want to look at one significant microcosm of the 4th quarter struggles, note that at 3:15, it was the moment of truth. Patrick Beverley had just picked up his 5th foul, and Harden had picked up his own 5th 2 minutes earlier. It was at this moment when Billy Donovan, Westbrook, and everybody else had to redirect their game plan to accomplish one thing – to knock out one or both of those guys by drawing their 6th foul. And yet…and yet. Not a single play set was run from there on out to do such a thing. Winning in the playoffs is hard enough, but if you can’t discern how to take advantage of a glaring opportunity, especially when the game was in the balance (tie game after Beverley’s 5th) and even an overtime period quite possible, then you’ve misplayed your favorable hand.

While there’s no “draw a foul on X player” play in any team’s rule book, it did seem like the Thunder hardly even tried.

The Warriors replaced Kevin Durant as a team

Durant missed Game 2 against the Portland Trail Blazers with a left calf strain that he could have played on, but after the injury during the season, the Warriors weren’t taking any chances with. That’s the right call, and Golden State replaced Durant through numbers, not with any singular performance.

Golden State isn’t a deep team, but they can play like one anyway when they’re at their best. There’s a level they can reach with their unselfishness and ball movement that creates open shots for every on the floor, and when that happens, there’s nothing you can do.

Durant could miss Game 3, too, but of course this isn’t anything new for the Warriors. They dropped some games early in Durant’s absence, but had a 13-game winning streak going by the time he finally did return to the lineup. The Warriors lost depth by signing Durant; they aren’t the same team that won 73 games and nearly the championship without him. But they are still exceedingly good even if they’re buoyed only by the Big Three plus Iguodala, and against a team like Portland, it was no problem at all.

The Warriors move to Portland for the next two games, and even if they don’t have Durant for both of them, they should be favored to complete the sweep with the way the first two have gone. Golden State is one of the best team’s we’ve seen in NBA history, and they can temporarily survive the loss of Durant.

Nobody is complaining that HawksWizards got shuffled to NBA TV

The Wizards hung onto the win, despite a combined 53 fouls and 71 free throws, both up from an already foul-prone Game 1. John Wall was enormous, not taking over for a six-minute stretch like he did on Sunday, but instead contributing consistently throughout the game. He finished with 32 points on 9-of-20 shooting along with nine assists and five rebounds, and his leak out dunk with less than a minute remaining helped stave off any potential Atlanta victory.

Sure, it’s neither team’s responsibility to make the series watchable — they have to do whatever they need to do in order to get the best chance at winning. But never has it been so easy to quarantine a series to NBA TV. If you have a rooting interest, you should be watching this series, but otherwise, it might be best to save yourself that extra hour.

Washington goes up 2-0 in the 109-101 win on Wednesday. Let’s get this series over with, because the games are a mess.

Tuesday’s best play

The one exception from that game above: this was so nice.

Tuesday’s final scores

Wizards 109, Hawks 101 (Bullets Forever recap | Peachtree Hoops recap)

Rockets 115, Thunder 111 (The Dream Shake recap | Welcome To Loud City recap)

Warriors 110, Trail Blazers 81 (Golden State of Mind recap | Blazer’s Edge recap)

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The Thunder are doomed no matter what Russell Westbrook does

Filling the void Kevin Durant left has been tough on everyone.

Russell Westbrook presents quite the conundrum.

If Westbrook plays with such a monopolistic style that he takes 43 of the Thunder’s 97 shots in a game, and 22 of the Thunder’s 34 shooting possessions in the fourth quarter, this Oklahoma City team cannot win — not with Westbrook forcing attempts against good help and straight-up defense.

If Westbrook doesn’t play like that, if he passes more and relies on his teammates to take the bulk of shots, this Oklahoma City team cannot win.

The Thunder are doomed if he does and doomed if he doesn’t.

Westbrook shot 4-18 in the fourth quarter, including 1-7 from three. That fact is going to get loads of attention as the world processes Westbrook’s monster box score (51 points, 13 assists, 10 rebounds) in the face of a loss. This was the highest scoring triple-double in NBA playoff history. But it looked like Westbrook was shooting the Thunder out of the game late as so few shots went down.

A number that will likely get less attention is -15. That was Oklahoma City’s scoring margin in the six minutes and 38 seconds that Westbrook sat on the bench. In the 41 minutes and 22 seconds Westbrook played, the Thunder outscored the Rockets by 11 points.

Being outscored by 15 points in less than seven minutes is some kind of feat. But that’s how light on offensive options the Thunder are without Westbrook running the team. Westbrook is the offense, for better or worse. When he’s off the court, the Thunder can’t put points on the board. When he’s on the court but ice cold, the Thunder can’t put points on the board. That’s just the basic nature of this team.

In years past, if Westbrook couldn’t find clean looks late in a game, he could let Kevin Durant take a few stabs at it. It worked famously well for the duo (though crunch time possessions always ended up a bit predictable). That’s a luxury Oklahoma City no longer has.

Victor Oladipo is deferential, perhaps to a fault. He passed up decent looks to get Westbrook the ball. Perhaps that is an order from the bench. Perhaps it is a demand, spoken or not, from Westbrook. But it is what is. Westbrook is a scorer. The Thunder needed points, and no one else was volunteering to get them. What else was Westbrook supposed to do?

There is an argument that Westbrook’s very style has stunted his teammates’ development this year, that Westbrook’s enormous appetite for shots, control, and everything on offense is the reason Oladipo, Steven Adams and Enes Kanter aren’t contributing more. It’s true that Adams and Kanter have regressed. But how much of that is due to Westbrook trying to maintain his workload while filling a Durant-sized void, and how much is simply due to the Durant-sized void?

Prior to Durant’s departure, Westbrook was ball-dominant and shot-heavy. But he and Durant attracted so much defensive attention that finding space on the pick-and-roll, off the ball or on dives was much more simple. Cutting that dynamic duo in half seriously reduced the number of problems opposing defenses have to deal with. When Westbrook has the ball, there’s no longer an MVP candidate to stay at home on. There is Andre Roberson. There is Victor Oladipo. There is Doug McDermott. Help on Westbrook or on the rolling big man, or stay at home against shooters who can’t hurt you too bad? It’s an easy choice. It makes the Thunder easier to defend than when Durant floated around, something dead simple to understand.

As evidenced in the closing minutes of Game 2, as the Rockets surged back to win, there are few easy halfcourt possessions for the Thunder against good competition. Westbrook looked tired, and while the Rockets aren’t great defensively Houston has some good defenders. There are certainly individual Westbrook shots — several of them, maybe more — we could point out as objectively bad. Most of them had Westbrook groping for foul calls, either on the perimeter or at the rim. The officials let most of those attempts slide by without a whistle. (They also let a blatant over-and-back that led to Westbrook’s only three of the fourth slide by. Things even out.)

The NBA has largely advanced past hero ball, led by the analytic revolution and LeBron James, a G.O.A.T. candidate who actually likes to pass in the biggest moments of basketball. This season saw a reversion to hero ball in some ways, though with a twist. Harden led the league in assists but also scored almost 30 per game. Westbrook averaged a triple-double but was also the scoring champion.

Fittingly, those two players consider themselves of the Kobe Bryant lineage. Kobe retired a year ago but his legacy will live on until the LeBron lineage comes of age. The Kobe tree claims Harden and Westbrook plus Paul George (who asserted he needs to get the biggest shots for the Pacers last weekend), Isaiah Thomas (a point guard who averaged 29 points per game this season), Durant (a four-time scoring champ whose relationship with co-stars is complicated), and a few others.

These players, Westbrook especially, came of age studying Kobe. They watched him have extraordinary and extraordinarily bold playoff games. It rubbed off. That’s why we see Westbrook shooting 18 shots in a quarter when he’s ice cold. That, and the fact that we see his team fare so poorly when he’s not dominating everything. Kobe in the post-Shaq and pre-Pau days would absolutely have done what Westbrook did on Wednesday. And the Lakers would have lost, too. Did anyone demand that Smush Parker or Devean George get some of those looks?

There’s just no other way for this to go for the Thunder. They are going to lose because they are not as good as the best teams in the Western Conference. It happens. Blessed are the more talented. Oklahoma City can lose with Westbrook missing a bunch of shots, or Oklahoma City can lose with the other Thunder players missing a bunch of shots. There really aren’t any other options against good competition.

Fault Westbrook if you must. Blame fate or Sam Presti if you can’t stand to besmirch Russ. Neither resolution improves the Thunder’s reality. This is who they are.

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NFL mock draft 2017: 2 rounds of fun

In our latest mock draft, every team gets at least one pick — except the Patriots.

The 2017 NFL Draft is a week away, and each team’s board is just about ready to go. The New England Patriots are the only franchise without a selection in the first or second round, but it just won’t feel like a draft until Bill Belichick finds a way to trade his way into the top 64 picks.

But trades are reliant upon having an idea of who wants what and which players are going to go where.

The San Francisco 49ers could be in the market to try to swap the No. 2 pick, but what player will teams want to come up and grab? If Mitchell Trubisky is the apple of a team’s eye, which team would that be?

If any team makes sense for Trubisky as a landing spot, it’s hard to argue against the 49ers as the one. Yes, the team has other holes on the roster, but a pick early in the second round could be used to address another need.

With that, here’s a look at the haul each team could get in the first two rounds next week:

1. Cleveland Browns

1st round (1st overall): Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
1st round (12th overall): Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
2nd round (33rd overall): Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida
2nd round (52nd overall): JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, USC

The Browns are rumored to be split between Garrett and Trubisky for the first pick, and — call me naive — but I actually believe them. But I’d still guess they lean toward Garrett, and settle for another quarterback. In this case, it’s Deshaun Watson, the second quarterback off the board who gets a receiver to work with in the second round.

2. San Francisco 49ers

1st round (2nd overall): Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
2nd round (34th overall): Derek Rivers, DE, Youngstown State

The 49ers may trade away the No. 2 pick and gather young talent, but it’s difficult to find a potential trade partner. They’re as quarterback needy as any team, so why not just take the No. 1 passer for themselves? In the second round, the team gets a speedy edge rusher to complement the last two first-round picks — Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner.

3. Chicago Bears

1st round (3rd overall): Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
2nd round (36th overall): Adoree Jackson, CB, USC

The draft plan for the Bears should be simple: Add impact players. Solomon Thomas can be that up front and he’d give them another dangerous edge rusher to a front seven that has Leonard Floyd. On the outside, Adoree’ Jackson can help a secondary that rarely made big plays, and his return ability would be welcomed on the roster.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars

1st round (4th overall): Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama
2nd round (35th overall): Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State

Jacksonville has made a habit out of adding defensive line talent, but doesn’t have much depth behind Calais Campbell. Allen provides a future at the position and another option for a defense that likes rotation up front. Landing Dalvin Cook in the second round would be a dream come true for the team and really not that unrealistic.

5. Tennessee Titans

1st round (5th overall): Jamal Adams, S, LSU
1st round (18th overall): Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama

Just like that, and the Titans secondary can go from a concern to a strength. Here they add two SEC defensive backs, who would join former Patriots cornerback Logan Ryan and former Jaguars safety Johnathan Cyprien. Giving Marcus Mariota some more tools to work with is still a priority, but the team’s pass defense — which finished No. 30 in yards allowed — stands to make significant strides in 2017.

6. New York Jets

1st round (6th overall): John Ross, WR, Washington
2nd round (39th overall): Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan

If this was the Jets’ haul, it would likely be the most talked about picks after the fact. John Ross would be the first true surprise of the draft, but he’d bring real game-breaking ability to a wide receiver corps that is now without Brandon Marshall. In the second round, the Jets get Peppers — a Swiss Army knife who can be used creatively by Todd Bowles in the secondary. In Bowles’s two years with the Cardinals, the team picked Tyrann Mathieu and Deone Bucannon. Giving him a multi-faceted toy of a defensive back would help a defense that struggled to keep points off the board.

7. Los Angeles Chargers

1st round (7th overall): Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
2nd round (38th overall): Caleb Brantley, DT, Florida

Joey Bosa made a significant impact for the Chargers, and that’s the kind of player they need to continue to add. Malik Hooker is the ball hawk safety of the class and can step in at a position where the Chargers have a big deficiency. Brantley can provide a penetrating 3-technique for a team transitioning to a 4-3 under new DC Gus Bradley.

8. Carolina Panthers

1st round (8th overall): Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
2nd round (40th overall): Alvin Kamara, RB, Tennessee
2nd round (64th overall): Evan Engram, TE, Mississippi

Letting Josh Norman walk as a free agent last year was a bold stand against overpaying the cornerback position, but replacing him wasn’t easy. With Lattimore, the Panthers get the top cornerback in the class as long as he can stay healthy. In the second round, Carolina adds a pair of weapons for Cam Newton to work with, even if they aren’t wide receivers. Kamara can split carries with Jonathan Stewart, and Engram can allow the Panthers to run two tight end sets with more effectiveness than what Ed Dickson provides.

9. Cincinnati Bengals

1st round (9th overall): Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
2nd round (41st overall): Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida

Finally the Bengals have another edge rusher opposite Carlos Dunlap with the addition of Derek Barnett, a polished player who could make his presence felt early. The team also lucks out at the top of the second round by getting the Mike linebacker it needs in the middle of the defense.

10. Buffalo Bills

1st round (10th overall): Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State
2nd round (44th overall): David Njoku, TE, Miami (Fla.)

There are many directions the Bills could go in the draft, but getting Stephon Gilmore’s replacement early is probably the top priority. The only other need that could come close is receiver, but nobody jumps out at pick 44 who could be the instant solution. Instead, Njoku somehow stayed on the board and is an athletic player to work with in the passing game.

11. New Orleans Saints

1st round (11th overall): O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
1st round (32nd overall): Chidobe Awuzie, CB, Colorado
2nd round (42nd overall): Dan Feeney, G, Indiana

Logically, the Saints should spend most of their draft focusing on the defensive side of the ball. But historically, Sean Payton and Co. just can’t seem to help themselves when a good offensive prospect is on the board. O.J. Howard is a hugely athletic tight end who can fill the void that Jimmy Graham left and Coby Fleener definitely didn’t fix. With so many defensive backs, the end of the first round and the second round could be a hot bed, although shoring up the offensive line with Feeney would also be wise.

13. Arizona Cardinals

1st round (13th overall): Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
2nd round (45th overall): DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame

A changing of the guard is coming in Arizona, and 2017 looks like it could certainly be the last hurrah for Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald. While Corey Davis can help both of those players next season, these are selections for the future, and Kizer gives Bruce Arians a young prospect to try to mold into the next face of the franchise for the Cardinals.

14. Philadelphia Eagles

1st round (14th overall): Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
2nd round (43rd overall): Cordrea Tankersley, CB, Clemson

The Eagles could realistically find two starting cornerbacks in the draft, but Fournette would be awfully difficult to pass up if he’s on the board at No. 14 — after all, Darren Sproles will slow down eventually … I think. Ryan Mathews has thrived in two- and three-headed backfields, and would be a good bridge for Fournette to not have to shoulder the entire load right away. In the second round, the Eagles get the secondary help they so sorely need.

15. Indianapolis Colts

1st round (15th overall): Haason Reddick, LB, Temple
2nd round (46th overall): Taylor Moton, OL, Western Michigan

Reuben Foster is still on the board at No. 15, but the Colts could make better use of the speed and athleticism of Reddick in the middle of the defense. In the second round, Indianapolis gives Andrew Luckwho has been injured for years now, literally — some much-needed protection.

16. Baltimore Ravens

1st round (16th overall): Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
2nd round (47th overall): Tyus Bowser, OLB, Houston

There’s plenty of debate about the order Williams, John Ross, and Corey Davis come off the board, but there’s an agreement that the fourth receiver off the board is in a lower tier. Snagging Williams gives the Ravens one of the top receivers in the class, which is perfect for a receiving corps without much production to point to. In the second round, Baltimore adds one of the more intriguing and athletic edge rushers — a spot where finding Terrell Suggs’s eventual replacement is necessary.

17. Washington

1st round (17th overall): Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State
2nd round (49th overall): Budda Baker, S, Washington

This could finally be the draft when Washington decides to actually add an interior defensive lineman. For some reason, the team took just one defensive linemen in the first three rounds over the last five years. But with McDowell on the board at No. 17, it’s a match made in heaven. So, too, would be the opportunity to take Baker, giving the team a better option than D.J. Swearinger at safety.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

1st round (19th overall): Obi Melifonwu, S, Connecticut
2nd round (50th overall): Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn

If Christian McCaffrey is still on the board at No. 19, he could be hard to pass up, but the fit of Melifonwu in Tampa Bay is just too perfect. He’s one of the true athletic freaks of the class and would give a significant upgrade to both the pass and run defense in Tampa Bay as a box safety. In the second round, Lawson would be another explosive rusher for a team that already has Robert Ayers and Noah Spence.

20. Denver Broncos

1st round (20th overall): Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
2nd round (51st overall): Antonio Garcia, OT, Troy

There isn’t an offensive lineman in the class that will change an offense the way that McCaffrey will. That’s why he’s the pick for the Broncos, who don’t have much to work with outside of their receivers. In the second round, Garcia gives Denver a potential starter on the offensive line.

21. Detroit Lions

1st round (21st overall): Charles Harris, DE, Missouri
2nd round (53rd overall): Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State

The Lions could use an edge-rushing boost after finishing near the bottom of the NFL in sacks with just 26. Harris provides that, while McMillan is a likely starter in a defense that is slated to start Paul Worrilow, Tahir Whitehead, and Antwione Williams.

22. Miami Dolphins

1st round (22nd overall): Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
2nd round (54th overall): T.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin

Offensive line is likely a priority for the Dolphins, but Reuben Foster provides a big upgrade over Koa Misi and an impact Sam linebacker up front. With most of the top offensive linemen of the second round gone too, the Dolphins get great value in Watt. He’s projected by most as a 3-4 outside linebacker, but he’s bigger than Cameron Wake and could eventually attempt to fill the shoes of the five-time Pro Bowler.

23. New York Giants

1st round (23rd overall): Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
2nd round (55th overall): Chris Wormley, DT, Michigan

The Giants add size on both lines in the first two rounds. Even if the team hasn’t given up on Ereck Flowers, Ramczyk can take over for Bobby Hart on the right side. Wormley can give the Giants an inside threat to push the pocket, and help to fill the void left by the departure of Johnathan Hankins.

24. Oakland Raiders

1st round (24th overall): Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt
2nd round (56th overall): Kevin King, CB, Washington

While the Raiders really have the luxury to take the best player available, regardless of position, the defense is the side that needs more work. If there is a big hole to fill, it’s at linebacker, and Cunningham is as exciting a playmaker as there is at the position to replace Malcolm Smith. Then in the second round, the Raiders take King, a tall, press cornerback on a defense that likes tall, press cornerbacks.

25. Houston Texans

1st round (25th overall): Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama
2nd round (57th overall): Marcus Williams, S, Utah

It’s tempting to force a quarterback to the Texans, and that certainly could be the direction they go in, but they’ve never shown a tendency to be desperate in the past. If they don’t have a prospect they love at the position, I believe Bill O’Brien when he says he’s fine with Tom Savage. Instead, the team can address two other needs by taking Robinson in the wake of Derek Newton’s serious injury, and by selecting Williams to possibly start ahead of Andre Hal.

26. Seattle Seahawks

1st round (26th overall): Garett Bolles, OT, Utah
2nd round (58th overall): Ahkello Witherspoon, CB, Colorado

Offensive line absolutely has to be a priority for the Seahawks, and Bolles gives them a day one starter at tackle. Whether that’s on the left or right side probably depends on what they think of Luke Joeckel, who was kicked inside to guard in Jacksonville before leaving in free agency. In the second round, the Seahawks get Witherspoon — an underrated, long cornerback who stands at 6’3.

27. Kansas City Chiefs

1st round (27th overall): Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech
2nd round (59th overall): Tim Williams, OLB, Alabama

With 10 draft picks and a roster that likely won’t have 10 rookies on the final 53, the Chiefs could be in business to package some picks and move up. But if Mahomes falls to them at No. 27 and Williams at No. 59, there really wouldn’t be any reason to do so. Both players could be the trade targets. Mahomes gives Andy Reid his quarterback of the future after Alex Smith, and Williams is another pass rusher for a team that already has a few. It’s a bit of a luxury pick, but the Chiefs don’t have many dire needs to address.

28. Dallas Cowboys

1st round (28th overall): Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan
2nd round (60th overall): Jordan Willis, DE, Kansas State

Previous attempts to add a premier pass rusher (Greg Hardy and Randy Gregory) didn’t work out well for the Cowboys. It’s the clear top need for Dallas in the draft, so why not take two cracks at it with Charlton and Willis near the bottom of each of the first two rounds?

29. Green Bay Packers

1st round (29th overall): Joe Mixon, RB, Oklahoma
2nd round (61st overall): Fabian Moreau, CB, UCLA

Ted Thompson loves to add speed and athleticism early, and both Mixon and Moreau provide that. Moreau is recovering from a pectoral injury suffered at the UCLA pro day, but that shouldn’t stop him from being an early contributor. The concerns about Mixon go far beyond that, but somebody is going to take him early, and the Packers could be the landing spot.

30. Pittsburgh Steelers

1st round (30th overall): Takkarist McKinley, OLB, UCLA
2nd round (62nd overall): Teez Tabor, CB, Florida

The Steelers need to: A) Find an outside linebacker to pair with 2015 first-round pick Bud Dupree; and B) Find a cornerback to pair with 2016 first-round pick Artie Burns. In this scenario they do both, snagging an ultra-athletic, but raw pass rusher in McKinley, and a very productive and successful, albeit slow, cornerback in Tabor.

31. Atlanta Falcons

1st round (31st overall): Forrest Lamp, OG, Western Kentucky
2nd round (63rd overall): Montravius Adams, DT, Auburn

Expect an emphasis on beef when it comes to the Falcons. The team could stand to find a new starter on the offensive line and help its run defense with another nose tackle, even after bringing on Dontari Poe. Lamp and Adams fit the bill and would add about 613 combined pounds to the Atlanta roster.

37. Los Angeles Rams

2nd round (37th overall): Zay Jones, WR, East Carolina

The Rams sought to provide Jared Goff with some help in the offseason, but Robert Woods alone isn’t going to cut it. Jones is FBS’s all-time leader in receptions after racking up huge stats at East Carolina and should be able to immediately contribute for the Rams, which is a must for an offense that can’t afford to slowly groom any additional young talent.

48. Minnesota Vikings

2nd round (48th overall): Dion Dawkins, G, Temple

Getting a running back would be nice now that the Adrian Peterson era is over, but after the top five backs there’s a drop off and they’re all gone when the Vikings go on the clock. But adding offensive line talent is certainly a priority, too. The Vikings struggled to protect Sam Bradford and couldn’t provide much running room anyway. Dawkins was a three-year starter who played left tackle in college, and could play tackle in the NFL, but likely projects best inside.

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NHL playoff scores 2017: Stingy defense, goaltending have the Senators on the brink of advancing

The Bruins were helpless against Erik Karlsson and Craig Anderson on Wednesday.

There’s a reason people say the playoffs in any sport are a great equalizer. Take the Senators, for example. Ottawa limped into the postseason after losing seven of nine to end the month of March.

Now? The Senators are one game away from a second round Stanley Cup playoff berth.

The Senators bested the Bruins 1-0 in Game 4 of their series on Wednesday evening. Thanks to Bobby Ryan, who had the game’s only goal five minutes into the third period, Ottawa swept its two road games and has a chance to eliminate the Bruins at home on Friday.

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It’s certainly not the result many were expecting, considering the Senators looked so bad coming into the postseason. Yet, the Bruins have dealt with crippling injuries to their defense — as Brandon Carlo, Adam McQuaid, and Torey Krug remain out of the lineup.

The Senators are also stifling Brad Marchand and the potent Boston offense. Marchand himself has just one point, while David Pastrnak leads Boston as the only player to reach three. Erik Karlsson continues to play out of his mind for the Senators, and that suffocating defense held the Bruins to just five shots in the third period on Wednesday.

Not to mention, Craig Anderson put up a 22-save shutout in the win and has saved 96 of the 104 Bruins’ attempts in the series.

After being unable to complete the comeback in Game 3 and putting together a less-than-stellar effort in Game 4, the Bruins are on the brink. They’ll have their work cut out for them as they head into Ottawa needing to sweep the next three games to advance.


Capitals 5, Maple Leafs 4
Senators 1, Bruins 0
Wild 2, Blues 0
Ducks 3, Flames 1

Three Things We Learned

1. The most interesting series in the playoffs is even once more

Game 4 between the Capitals and Maple Leafs played out very similarly to their previous game on Monday. Washington took the early 2-0 lead, but Toronto countered. On Wednesday, however, the Capitals bent but did not break, as they pushed back and looked just as overpowering and deadly as advertised in a 5-4 victory.

The game was, of course, not without drama. Tom Wilson saved Braden Holtby, T.J. Oshie had a pair of goals, and a blown goaltender interference call almost came back to haunt the Capitals. That’s not even counting the 5-on-3 power play the Maple Leafs had to start the third after two boneheaded Capitals’ penalties.

On to Washington we go.

2. We have our first elimination of the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs

Here lie the Calgary Flames and their playoff hopes. The Ducks took an early two-goal lead and didn’t relinquish it in their sweep of their Pacific Division foes. Brian Elliott was pulled after one goal, and Chad Johnson relinquished a goal just moments after being put on the ice in relief.

We’ll likely have more on the Flames’ demise, but it wasn’t pretty. Though bad luck played a factor, they also allowed a three-goal comeback to the Ducks in Game 3.

3. Devan Dubnyk has arrived

While Jake Allen has rightfully stolen the show in this series, Dubnyk asserted himself with quite the Game 4 performance. Dubnyk saved all 28 shots he faced in the 2-0 victory for Minnesota, as the Wild now have a bit of life headed back home. Though the Wild avoided the sweep, there’s still a long road ahead of them in this series.

Impact Moment

We mentioned Wilson earlier, but had the forward not saved this shot, the Capitals may not have won Game 4.

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Conn Smythe Watch

  • Both Wilson and Oshie had big moments for the Capitals, each with a pair of goals.
  • Dubnyk deserves special mention but Charlie Coyle got the game winner for the Wild.
  • John Gibson allowed just one goal to the Flames after his disastrous Game 3 performance.
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Review: Urban Trial Freestyle 2

Review: Urban Trial Freestyle 2 screenshot

Do not adjust your computer or phone screen. The game you are looking at is from 2017 and not, as its outward appearance would indicate, from 1998. Urban Trial Freestyle 2 not only has the graphic fidelity of a game from 20 years ago, but it feels like one from back then as well, like a lost artifact from the era that brought us Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, Jeremy McGrath Super Cross 98, Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX, and Gerry Lopez Surf Riders.

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