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The Pulse: The NBA Finals are (basically) set

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The Pulse Newsletter 📣 | This is The Athletic’s daily sports newsletter. Sign up here to receive The Pulse directly in your inbox.


Good morning! I hope whatever you grill today is delightful.

Sweeps? Time to sim ahead

The game itself, like much of this Mavericks-Timberwolves series, was enthralling. Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving exchanged blows with Anthony Edwards & Co. The final quarter featured all sorts of patented playoff tension. 

Yet after Dallas’ 116-107 win last night, we’ve arrived at the most boring destination: a 3-0 Mavericks lead. Which means we’re at 3-0 in both of our NBA conference finals. Snooze. Two things: 

  • Tonight, Boston gets its chance to clinch a sweep on the road against the Pacers, who could again be missing Tyrese Haliburton. Indiana is actually a few plays away from leading this series and says there’s no giving up, but this is probably curtains, right? Remember that no NBA team has come all the way back from 3-0 in a series.
  • With a win at home tomorrow, Dallas can clinch its first trip to the NBA Finals since 2011. I am legitimately shocked this series is 3-0. But Edwards has been mediocre, while Karl-Anthony Towns is shooting 27.8 percent from the field and 13.6 percent from 3 in this series. Can’t happen. The only Mavs worry: Dereck Lively II’s health

That Finals matchup, however, is certainly not boring. Irving’s chance to beat the team he left five years ago. Dončić’s first Finals trip. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown sniffing around a ring once more. Should we fast forward there? 

  • In non-sweep news yesterday: The New York Rangers are up 2-1 over the Florida Panthers after a dizzying overtime win in Game 3. The Rangers entered the third period with a 4-2, headed to overtime at 4-4 and scored the game-winner a little more than five minutes into the extra period. The poor Panthers controlled most of the action in OT before Alex Wennberg deflected the winner into the net. Brutal.

News to Know

Last-lap heist
Yesterday, Josef Newgarden won his second straight Indianapolis 500 after a daring final-lap pass of Pato O’Ward, who was inconsolable after watching a win disappear in the final seconds of the race. It’s a new twist in a strange season for Newgarden, whose cheating scandal lost him fans. Also: NASCAR driver Kyle Larson finished 18th.

Reigning MVP Acuña out for year
Ronald Acuña Jr. will miss the rest of the season after testing confirmed a torn ACL, a brutal blow for a Braves team already slightly lagging behind lofty preseason expectations. It’s especially tough for Acuña, who will have another season taken away by a torn ACL. Acuña was the unanimous NL MVP last year.

Family confirms Murray’s death a suicide
Former PGA Tour golfer Grayson Murray died by suicide, his family confirmed in a heartbreaking statement yesterday. “It’s surreal that we not only have to admit it to ourselves, but that we also have to acknowledge it to the world,” his parents, Eric and Terry Murray, said. “It’s a nightmare.” Murray, just 30, had withdrawn from the Charles Schwab Challenge on Friday, citing an illness. Read our full report here.

More news


Remembering Some Guys: An old timers’ game with a serious twist

On Saturday, a who’s-who of former MLB players gathered in Cooperstown, N.Y., wore Negro League jerseys of old and played a baseball game. Tyler Kepner was there for an exhibition game he called “profoundly important.” I agree, and want to highlight a few things: 

  • The list of players was jaw-dropping: Ken Griffey Jr., Adam Jones, Prince Fielder, Ryan Howard (who hit a home run), Curtis Granderson, David Price, CC Sabathia, Justin and B.J. Upton and Eddie Murray.
  • These were all Black superstars of their eras, and they all broadcast the same message yesterday, a day of both celebration and rue: Each year, fewer and fewer Black athletes play baseball. This year, just 6 percent of all major leaguers are Black; in the 1970s and 1980s, that number was closer to 20 percent.
  • There are a few reasons for this decline, as Tyler detailed in his piece, but the gravitas of this group struck me. These former superstars are pouring effort and money into reversing this trend. MLB is also seeing some positive early results from multiple related initiatives. 

Make sure to read Tyler’s full story here, including some fascinating details about how the House v. NCAA settlement could have a huge impact on Black participation in college baseball.


Watch This Game

NHL: Stars at Oilers
8:30 p.m. ET on TNT
This is already a great series, tied 1-1 with strong performances from each side. I’m excited to see what the crowd in Edmonton looks like. 

NBA: Celtics at Pacers
8 p.m. ET on ESPN
We talked about this above. Watch the probable finale. 

Get tickets to games like these here.


Pulse Picks

Always good fun: looking back on really great — and really bad — jerseys. Tim Spiers has a comprehensive look at the best and worst European soccer kits of all time

You know who had a bizarre weekend? Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag, who we thought might be sacked after the season. Then he won the FA Cup. And he still could get fired. Dan Sheldon breaks everything down. 

Pete Alonso is trying to downplay trade rumors, but as his Mets limp through May, the questions are inescapable

Chris Johnston explores Connor Bedard’s first IIHF World Championship effort, highlighted by a disappointing finish despite being the biggest name at the tournament. 

Most-clicked in the newsletter yesterday: That hilarious, incredible and must-see home-plate tag from a high-school center fielder

Most-read on the website yesterday: Jon Greenberg’s column on Angel Reese’s performance — fighting through getting choke-slammed by Alyssa Thomas — over the weekend, which earned praise all around.

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(Photo: Glenn James / Getty Images)

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