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Timberwolves oust reigning champs; Pacers knock off depleted Knicks; Xander Schauffele earns first major

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This is an article version of the CBS Sports HQ AM Newsletter, the ultimate guide to every day in sports. You can sign up to get it in your inbox every weekday morning here.


🏀 Good morning to everyone, but especially to …

THE MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES

Against a mile-high stack of data that would have suggested the Timberwolves were about to be free for that Memorial Day weekend cookout, Minnesota turned in an epic second half Sunday evening that almost defied explanation. By now, you know that the visiting Wolves went on to defeat the defending NBA champion Nuggets in Game 7, 98-90. The fact that it happened is stunning enough, but how it happened feels like it will be talked about — not just Sunday — but for years to come. The official record will show that the following statements were actual stats from the game.

  • The Timberwolves were down by 15 at halftime, and they trailed by 20 early in the third quarter.
  • Anthony Edwards was 6-for-24 shooting.
  • Nikola Jokic scored 34 points and added 19 rebounds, while Jamal Murray had a game-high 35 points.

Let’s face it, if you had heard just one of those three things, you would not have been blamed for thinking that the Wolves were cooked. But Edwards, who had struggled mightily in the first half, wound up being pulled for a few crucial minutes. Our Colin Ward-Henninger explains how that benching helped him and likely propelled the Timberwolves to victory.

  • Ward-Henninger: “Most 22-year-olds wouldn’t take kindly to an extended bench stint during the biggest game of their career. Edwards almost certainly didn’t either, but his ability to put his first-half difficulties behind him helped lead to a remarkable second half from both himself and the Minnesota Timberwolves, earning Edwards a double-boost in the process.”

The Timberwolves advance to face the Mavericks, who took out the Thunder on a controversial foul call in their Game 6 Saturday night. Game 1 of the Western Conference finals will be Wednesday in Minnesota. This should be a fun one.

👍 Honorable mentions

And not such a good morning for …


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THE DENVER NUGGETS AND THE NEW YORK KNICKS

Entering the weekend, when it comes to the NBA playoffs, one of those time-tested stats we’ve always heard is that the winner of Game 5 goes on to win the series some 82% of time … and then along came May 19, 2024. That 82% stat was tossed out twice in the span of a few hours. The NBA’s defending champion Nuggets and those scrappy undermanned Knicks have joined the ignominious list of teams to have taken a 3-2 series lead, but failed to close the deal.

Yes, both squads went 0-2 in Games 6 and 7, the latter contest on their home floor, but it’s not exactly like we couldn’t see this coming. The Nuggets hadn’t exactly been clicking on all cylinders in this round. They lost Games 1 and 2 in their own gym, and got run out of Minnesota in that 45-point loss in Game 6. If there is a surprise, perhaps it’s how after Murray and Jokic, no other member of the Nuggets scored more than seven points. Oh well, it’s now on to what Denver might do in the offseason. It’s also worth noting that for a sixth straight season we’ll have a different NBA champion.

Earlier in the day, the Knicks met their fate, a 130-109 loss that wasn’t exactly a stunner. Credit New York for getting this far given its depleted lineup. Then add the Jalen Brunson broken hand, and you could feel the Thanos-level air of inevitability. But let’s not take anything away from the Pacers. They need to bottle and sell whatever it was those fellas from Indy were drinking before the game because that stuff worked. The Pacers shot an astounding 67.1% for the game, which is the high-water mark for team shooting in NBA history. Impressive, most impressive. 

(Knicks fans, you may want to skip this next paragraph.) … Given the history between these clubs, you had to figure that the iconic image of Reggie Miller mocking the Knicks by choking himself after his 25-point fourth-quarter performance in their 1994 series was going to wind its way into the picture. I just didn’t see the actual picture winding its way onto Tyrese Hailburton’s hoodie after the game.

Anyway, like the Nuggets, it’s on to next season for the Knicks, as well as for the Thunder.

👎 Not so honorable mentions

🏌 Xander Schauffele exorcises demons to earn first career major


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In yet another example of script-flipping sports story on Sunday, there would be no late-round stumble for Xander Schauffele, who rode clubhouse leads after the first three days to claim the PGA Championship, which was his first career major. But do not mistake Schauffele’s wire-to-wire victory at Valhalla for not being a nail-biter.

Bryson DeChambeau had the day’s low round of 64, and he finished the event just one stroke behind. With the win, Schauffele leap frogs Rory McIlroy for the world No. 2 ranking, but to say that victory for the La Jolla, Calif., native was expected is far from the reality of the situation. Let’s turn to CBS Sports golf writer Kyle Porter, who can speak to the history of the Schauffele slide better than most.

  • Porter: “Even when Schauffele led after 18, 36 and 54 holes, old stories persisted of him being allergic to major championship leads and cowering from the lights when they at their most luminous. How could they not? Schauffele had sat in first or second entering the final round of a major or The Players Championship three times in his career; he lost all three opportunities. Even worse, he had entered such third rounds inside the top three on the leaderboard three times; he lost all three of those opportunities, too.”

In winning the Wanamaker Trophy, Schauffele had the lowest score to par (21-under) in the history of all major play. Still, the victory came down to the 72nd hole, and after Schauffele birdied to finish the day at 6-under 65 — following rounds of 62, 68 and 68 — Patrick McDonald captured just what was going through Schauffele’s mind yesterday.

  • Schauffele: “I was actually kind of emotional after the putt lipped in … It’s been a while since I’ve won, and I really just kept saying it all week, I just need to stay in my lane. Man, was it hard to stay in my lane today. I tried all day to just keep focus on what I’m trying to do and keep every hole ahead of me. Had some weird kind of breaks coming into the [club]house, but it’s all good now.”

Here are a few more interesting notes from the weekend:

⚾ MLB Power Ranking tiers starting to solidify


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How to explain the divide we have with MLB teams this season? … If you’re someone who had to sit at the kids’ table growing up, think of yourself as, perhaps, the Angels, Marlins, Reds or Rockies — you may get your shot one day, but not this year. No, those grown-up spots have been reserved for the Braves, Dodgers, Orioles, Phillies and Yankees, who’ve been crushing things (in the form of AL Central squads) of late.

The Phillies, Dodgers and Braves, last week’s No. 1, No. 3 and No. 4, are all still in the top 5, said our Matt Snyder in his latest power rankings, while the Yankees, vaulted from fifth to third on the strength of a 6-0 week in which they outscored the Twins, a team they just seem to own, 14-1 and the AL cellar-dwelling White Sox 17-5 with back-to-back three-game sweeps.

📺 What we’re watching on Monday

⚾ Padres at Braves, 12:20 p.m. on MLB Network
🏀 Sun at Fever, 7 p.m. on ESPN
🏀 Storm at Liberty, 7 p.m. on ESPN3
🏒 Game 7: Oilers at Canucks, 9 p.m. on ESPN
⚾ Diamondbacks at Dodgers, 10:10 p.m. on MLB Network

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