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Denver Nuggets: 3 bold predictions for 2023 NBA Finals Game 2 vs. Heat

One down, three to go.

The Denver Nuggets took a 104-93 victory over the Miami Heat in Game 1 of the 2023 NBA Finals. Center Nikola Jokic and guard Jamal Murray led the Nuggets in scoring with 27 and 26 points, respectively. Murray hit 11 of his 22 shot attempts as he drove in for contested attempts at the paint and pulled up for mid-range attempts. The 6-foot-4-inch guard added 10 assists with pinpoint passes to forward Aaron Gordon in the post and open teammates on the perimeter.

Jokic ended the night with a triple-double, adding 10 rebounds and 14 assists. He joined four other players who scored in double digits for Denver on Thursday, including Gordon, guard Bruce Brown and forward Michael Porter Jr.

Taking Game 1 in the franchise’s first appearance in the NBA Finals was already impressive.

But will the Nuggets continue pushing forward in the 2023 NBA Finals and claim a victory against the Heat in Game 2? And who will be the most important contributors for Denver to take a comfortable two-game lead on Sunday?

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3. Jamal Murray and Aaron Gordon will have impressive scoring nights

Denver’s dynamic offense has proven its biggest strength throughout the playoffs.

The Nuggets have scored 115.6 points per game, good enough to take third place among teams that have made the postseason, according to ESPN. Denver has knocked down 38.2% of its 3-point attempts, putting it in second among playoff squads behind the Heat.

Murray’s offensive production exploded as he entered the 2023 NBA playoffs. He averages 27.6 points per game in 16 postseason contests, a 7.6-point jump from his regular season average. He scored as many as 40 points in the postseason during Game 2 of the Nuggets’ series against the Minnesota Timberwolves, hitting 13 of his 22 shot attempts and six of his 10 3-pointers as Denver took a 122-113 victory over Minnesota in Ball Arena.

“Blue Arrow’s one of the best guards in the league and one of the best scorers in the league,” Gordon said of Murray, via ClutchPoints NBA beat writer Tomer Azarly. “When he’s locked in and he’s engaged, he’s up there with the best players in the world.”

Gordon has had solid scoring nights of his own during the playoffs. He dropped 22 points and hit nine of his 14 shot attempts in the team’s final game of its series against the Los Angeles Lakers, connecting on three of his five tries from the 3-point line as the Nuggets took a 113-111 victory in Arena.

If Murray and Gordon can continue finding ways to score against Miami’s defense, they can have a solid chance at placing among Denver’s top scorers on Sunday.

2. The Nuggets’ defense will continue to keep the Heat’s offense at bay

Denver’s defense held its own against the Heat on Thursday.

It limited Miami to 40.6% from the field and 33.3% from the 3-point line. The Nuggets made up for their 29.6% from beyond the arc with a 50.6% field goal percentage from the floor. Forward Michael Porter Jr. finished the night with two blocks and 11 defensive rebounds, adding to the four total blocks and 39 defensive boards brought down by Denver in Ball Arena.

Head coach Mike Malone set high expectations for the Nuggets when he was asked about Porter’s activity on the defensive end after Game 1.

“It’s where it needs to be,” Malone said in a postgame press conference. “I think we’re past the point of praising Michael when he has a good defensive game. He needs to, as does everyone else on our team. This is the NBA Finals.

“We showed one of those at halftime where they ran a pick-and-roll for Jimmy Butler. Michael tried to get under, stayed in the play and wound up blocking Jimmy from behind. Those are the plays Michael and everybody else need to play for us to win this series. It can’t be ‘Look at Michael Porter. He’s doing a heck of a great job.’ That is his job. It’s Jamal’s job. It’s Pope’s job. Nikola. Aaron. Everybody that plays for us.”

Should Denver’s defense live up to Malone’s expectations, it should have the opportunity to at least keep some of Miami’s more reliable scorers at bay in an important Game 2.

1. The Nuggets will take a close victory over the Heat

Counting out the Heat when it matters the most will be hard.

Just like in Game 1, that will mean setting the tone with physicality early on, as detailed by Miami forward Jimmy Butler in a postgame press conference.

“I definitely think they came out with a lot of physicality,” Butler said. “We have to be able to match that. They did their job on their home floor, you have to say that, but we’ll be ready (for Game 2).

“We’ll adjust and do some things very differently and come out here and get one for Game 2.”

Denver must claim victory on its home court to take a comfortable two-game lead over the Heat and keep the momentum on its side. If not, it will mean traveling to Miami with a 1-1 tie before it plays two games at the Kaseya Center.

Denver won its first two games in the playoffs against the Lakers, Minnesota Timberwolves and Phoenix Suns, all at home, according to Basketball Reference. If it continues to tap into its home-grown star duo and its reliable supporting cast, it should be able to pull it off again one more time when it matters the most.

The Nuggets will tip off against the Heat at 6 p.m. MDT on Sunday in Ball Arena. The game will be broadcasted on ABC.

The post Denver Nuggets: 3 bold predictions for 2023 NBA Finals Game 2 vs. Heat appeared first on ClutchPoints.

Key Cardinals player heads to IL after Jordan Walker MLB promotion

The St. Louis Cardinals are reportedly placing Lars Nootbaar on the injured list, per Kate Woo. The move is corresponding to top prospect Jordan Walker being re-called to the big league club.

Nootbaar was recently forced to leave the Cardinals’ game with an injury versus the Kansas City Royals. St. Louis wasn’t sure if an IL stint would be necessary, but his injury was seemingly serious enough to warrant a trip to the injured list.

More to come on this story.

The post Key Cardinals player heads to IL after Jordan Walker MLB promotion appeared first on ClutchPoints.

Hammarby vände efter 19-åringens show

Uppdaterad 21:05 | Publicerad 21:03

Hammarby hade inte vunnit på fyra matcher i damallsvenskan.

Hemma mot Norrköping bröts den tunga sviten – efter att Maika Hamano vänt matchen på egen hand.

– Det är en fantastisk spelare att spela med, säger lagkaptenen Alice Carlsson till Viaplay.

Följ ämnen i artikeln

På de fyra senaste matcherna hade Bajen bara plockat två poäng.

Men hemma mot Norrköping fick man med sig alla tre, efter att ha vänt ett tidigt 0–1-underläge till vinst med 2–1.

Vände på egen hand

Den stora segerorganisatören blev 19-åriga japanskan Maika Hamano. Chelsea-lånet satte först kvitteringen efter dryga halvtimmen med ett mäktigt vänsterskott.

Och tio minuter in i den andra halvleken slog hon till på nytt, efter att vackert ha tagit emot en perfekt avvägd frispark från Kyra Cooney-Cross, innan hon behärskat placerade in bollen i nät.

– Hon är matchvinnare idag och det är en fantastisk spelare att spela med, säger Alice Carlsson till Viaplay.

– Skönt att studsa tillbaka och vara på vinnarspåret igen. Det är ingen jättefin prestation idag och det får vi analysera sen. Men det är ingen som kommer ihåg i slutet av året, utan det viktigaste idag var att ta tre poäng och det gjorde vi, fortsätter lagkaptenen.

Sjunde raka förlusten för Peking

För gästernas del var det en blytung förlust – då man nu kammat hem noll poäng på de sju senaste matcherna. Sex av dessa har varit uddamålsförluster.

– Det är frustrerande. Det är små, små centimeter och beslut som gör att vi åker härifrån med noll poäng istället för tre, säger Ebba Handfast till Viaplay.

De grönvita kliver nu i och med segern om Piteå i tabellen och är ny serietvåa bakom Häcken.

På tisdag möts de båda topplagen i finalen i svenska cupen som spelas på Tele2 arena i Stockholm.

Conn Smythe Trophy favorites ahead of Panthers-Golden Knights Stanley Cup Final

The Stanley Cup Playoffs are coming to an end, with just two teams now remaining. The Vegas Golden Knights and Florida Panthers will face off in the Stanley Cup Final, with both teams looking for their first title. Aside from the Stanley Cup itself, the biggest question left is who will win the Conn Smythe Trophy.

Named after the former Toronto Maple Leafs owner, the Conn Smythe Trophy goes to the most valuable player in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Unlike other awards such as the NBA’s Finals MVP, this award takes the entire playoffs into account, not just the final round. The trophy usually goes to a player on the winning team, but this isn’t always the case.

Of course, neither team would be here without some monster performances. As such, there are several good candidates for the award this year, but we’ve narrowed it down to three.

With that said, here are the three Conn Smythe Trophy favorites heading into the Stanley Cup Final.

3. Jack Eichel, Vegas Golden Knights

Eichel’s performance in these playoffs goes to show much a good playoff run can change. Before, Eichel hadn’t made the playoffs in his first seven NHL seasons, and many claimed he couldn’t win. The constant comparisons to Connor McDavid, his fellow 2015 top draft pick, didn’t help either. Now though, the star center has quieted his doubters with this run.

In 17 playoff games, Eichel has six goals and a team-high 18 points. That’s a great start, but Eichel is also proving himself as a strong two-way forward.

He’s been a monster on the forecheck and has been the one carrying the puck most often for the Golden Knights. It’s no coincidence that his line mates, Jonathan Marchessault and Ivan Barbashev, are right behind him in terms of points.

Eichel has gone through a lot in his career, such as his controversial exit from the Buffalo Sabres and neck surgery after arriving in Vegas. In these playoffs though, he is showing the talent that made him a No. 2 overall pick all those years ago.

2. Matthew Tkachuk, Florida Panthers

Florida made a huge gamble in the offseason by bringing in Tkachuk. The Panthers gave up their top point-scorer last season in Jonathan Huberdeau, a top-four defenseman in Mackenzie Weegar, a decent prospect in Cole Schwindt and a first-round pick to pry Tkachuk away from the Calgary Flames. So far though, that risk has been well worth it and then some.

Tkachuk dominated in the regular season with 40 goals and 108 points, but he has been otherworldly in the playoffs. He leads the Panthers with nine goals and 21 points, and he has shown up when it matters most. Whether it’s his three-overtime winner or his series-clinching goal in the dying seconds of Game 4 in the Eastern Conference Final, Tkachuk has been the definition of clutch throughout the postseason.

Tkachuk’s impact isn’t just felt in the offensive zone. He has stepped up his defensive game in the playoffs while still being an absolute pest for other teams and getting in their heads’.

Some have called the Panthers a “team of destiny” in these playoffs, and Tkachuk is a big reason why. And yet, he isn’t even the favorite on his own team despite all his heroics.

1. Sergei Bobrovsky, Florida Panthers

That’s because Bobrovsky is stealing the show in these playoffs. Before this postseason, Bobrovksy’s tenure with the Panthers was subpar at best. He rarely played to his $10 million AAV contract, and often found himself behind his supposed backups. Hell, he wasn’t even the starter entering the playoffs, with that honor instead going to Alex Lyon.

This postseason though? A complete redemption for the two-time Vezina winner. Since Bobrovsky took over the net in Game 5 of the first round, the Panthers are 12-1 and that’s no coincidence. He has a .935 save percentage, 2.21 goals against average and has saved 19.7 goals above expected.

Bobrovsky has outright stolen games for the Panthers this season, even ones where they had much fewer shots and scoring chances than their opponent. Take Game 3 against of the Eastern Conference Final, where the Carolina Hurricanes outshot the Panthers 32-17 but lost 1-0 because Bobrovsky turned into a brick wall. Without his heroics, the Panthers likely lose to the Boston Bruins in the first round in five games.

Bobrovsky’s run of redemption has been simply incredible to watch this postseason. There’s an argument that he could win the Conn Smythe even if Florida loses, provided he continues his great play. It goes without saying that he would much prefer to win the Stanley Cup, but the Conn Smythe Trophy would certainly be a nice bonus.

The post Conn Smythe Trophy favorites ahead of Panthers-Golden Knights Stanley Cup Final appeared first on ClutchPoints.

3 reasons Bulls must not re-sign Nikola Vucevic in 2023 NBA free agency

The Chicago Bulls made a bad trade back in 2021, sending Wendell Carter Jr., Otto Porter Jr., and two first-round picks to the Orland Magic for Nikola Vucevic. The big man hasn’t helped the Bulls reach the next level and now enters NBA free agency in the 2023 offseason. While letting him walk makes the most sense, reports are the team is entering Nikola Vucevic contract extension talks, and Bulls fans aren’t happy. Here are three reasons why these fans are right, and a Nikola Vucevic Bulls extension is a terrible idea.

3. Nikola Vucevic isn’t a great rim protector

In the modern NBA, a center needs to be a high-level rim protector in order for a team to succeed, and Nikola Vucevic isn’t that. One look at the center’s stats the last few seasons should make that clear.

Vucevic’s defensive rating per 100 possessions in 2022-23 was 110, which is tied for 34th in the league and for 18th among qualified NBA centers. His 1.0 blocks per 100 possessions were even worse, putting him T-79 in the league and T-45 among qualified centers.

He is a good defensive rebounder, leading the league with 744 boards, but he played all 82 games and 33.5 minutes per game to get that. Per 100 possessions, his 13.2 defensive rebounds put him seventh in the league.

The defensive limitations are one of the reasons a Nikola Vucevic Bulls contract extension doesn’t make sense, but it’s certainly not the only reason.

2. Vucevic isn’t a winning player in the modern NBA

Vucevic was an All-Star in his last three seasons with the Magic and his first year with the Bulls thanks to his offensive prowess. But entering 2023 NBA free agency, it’s clear his offense has fallen off dramatically since those days.

In his All-Star seasons, Vucevic averaged over 20 points per game in each of those seasons. In the last two seasons for the Bulls, his points have dropped to 17.6 per game. The advanced offensive stats have fallen off as well.

As an All-Star, Vucevic had a PER of 21.8 or higher. In the last two seasons that has dropped to 18.2 and 19.1, respectively. His offensive box plus/minus was 3.8-5.5 in his best seasons and down to 1.9 this year.

Overall, the offensive numbers aren’t terrible for Vucevic, but at 32, he’s no longer the efficient scorer he once was. And with the Bulls’ current roster, what he does do well is obviously not adding up to enough wins for the team to be a contender.

At this point in his career, Vucevic could be a valuable second-unit scorer on a contending team. But on the Bulls, he’s one of their best offensive players, and that’s not good enough.

1. A Nikola Vucevic contract extension would kill the Bulls’ flexibility

There is a number where a Nikola Vucevic Bulls contract extension makes sense. However, at $20 million a year or more — like he’s been making on his last contract — it is simply too much for the Bulls to pay in NBA free agency this offseason.

And that’s the biggest problem.

There were plenty of reports that Vucevic was on the trade block at the 2023 NBA trade deadline, and no team took the bait at $22 million, even with an expiring contract. If the Nikola Vucevic Bulls contract extension is anywhere in that neighborhood this offseason, the center will get locked into the Bulls for the life of the contract.

That is exactly what the Bulls don’t need. Even if Lonzo Ball comes back next season — which is a major question mark right now — the Bulls are not a contender.

Chicago needs to keep maximum roster flexibility this offseason in order to start to rebuild. They don’t have their 2023 first-round pick, as it went to the Magic as part of the Vucevic trade, but they do have the assets to start a rebuild as soon as next season.

DeMar DeRozan is an expiring contract that should be easy to move at the trade deadline this coming season, and Zach LaVine is signed long-term, giving him trade value as well. The Bulls also have their own pick and a top-14 protected first from the Portland Trail Blazers in 2024 as well.

All this makes this season a perfect time to start. A tear-down and rebuild, but a Nikola Vucevic Bulls contract extension will hamper that.

It will be a huge blow to Bulls general manager Marc Eversley, who made the initial Vucevic trade, to let him walk away for nothing, and it may even cost him his job. However, it is the right thing to do at this point, as much as it hurts, which is why the Bulls must not re-sign Vucevic this offseason.

The post 3 reasons Bulls must not re-sign Nikola Vucevic in 2023 NBA free agency appeared first on ClutchPoints.

Warriors to host explosive Duke big man at latest 2023 NBA Draft workout

Duke basketball big man Dereck Lively II highlights a list of intriguing prospects set to workout for the Golden State Warriors on Monday ahead of the 2023 NBA Draft. Joining him at Chase Center will be Jalen Wilson of Kansas, Arthur Kaluma of Creighton, Keyontae Johnson of Kansas State and Colin Castleton of Florida, according to Madeline Kenney of the Bay Area News Group.

Lively, a consensus top-five recruit in the High School Class of 2022, was considered a surefire lottery pick entering his freshman season with the Blue Devils. He struggled to live up to expectations, though, averaging 5.2 points and 5.4 rebounds in just 20.6 minutes per game, at times falling in and out of the starting lineup.

But Lively’s rare combination of length, coordination and timing made him one of most disruptive rim-protectors in the country, averaging 2.4 blocks per game and finishing with a 12.7% block rate—third-best in all of college basketball, per Sports Reference.

There’s no guaranteeing Lively will be on the board when Golden State is on the clock at No. 19. His ability to wall off the paint, finish towering lobs around the basket and possibly switch onto smalls without getting roasted at 7’1 makes him arguably the second-best center prospect in the draft behind Victor Wembanyama.

The same attributes that make Lively a potentially snug roster and schematic fit for the Warriors will no doubt be recognized by teams picking ahead of them. He could ultimately be taken in the back half of the lottery after all. Regardless, expect to hear rumors of Golden State’s interest in Lively until his name is called on June 22nd at Barclays Center.

Wilson and Kaluma are currently regarded as potential second-round picks, valued for their two-way versatility at forward. Johnson and Castleton could also be selected in the second round, or even be available on the undrafted free agent market.

The Warriors’ only pick in the 2023 NBA Draft comes at No. 19.

The post Warriors to host explosive Duke big man at latest 2023 NBA Draft workout appeared first on ClutchPoints.

Alabama’s Nick Saban reacts to SEC’s decision on schedule

Alabama football head coach Nick Saban weighed in on the SEC’s decision to stick with an eight-game schedule for the 2024 season.

With the arrival of Oklahoma and Texas in 2024, the conference heavily debated whether to stick to eight games or expand to nine. SEC athletic directors approved a revised eight-game slate and the conference will go without divisions in 2024.

“I think eventually we’ll probably move to more involvement and more SEC games, but I think this just happened so quickly, it was really hard to make a lot of changes that fast,” Saban said. “Whatever it is, we’re excited about the opportunity and the challenges. It’s a tough league, so we’ll play enough really good games against really good teams. Whether we play eight or nine, we’ll just adapt to it.”

Saban mentioned the need to play more out-of-conference Power 5 schools to improve Alabama’s strength of schedule. A move to a nine-game schedule would make that difficult for Alabama and other SEC powerhouses.

With the decision to stick with eight games comes the possibility of losing some long-standing rivalries in college football’s best conference. If the league were to stick with an eight-game schedule after 2024, reports are that schools will have one recurring rivalry game with seven rotating opponents.

While the Iron Bowl between Alabama and Auburn will be preserved whatever the SEC schedule may be, other rivalries may fall under the sword of conference expansion.

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said that the conference will explore more schedule options for 2025 and beyond.

The post Alabama’s Nick Saban reacts to SEC’s decision on schedule appeared first on ClutchPoints.

Jets’ riskiest free agency decision in 2023 NFL offseason

Though their biggest offseason acquisition was trading for Aaron Rodgers, the New York Jets also made several important moves in NFL free agency. The Jets filled holes at wide receiver and defensive tackle and bolstered their offensive line with several free agent signings.

Wide receivers Allen Lazard and Mecole Hardman were likely the two biggest names added from the free agent market. Signing receiver Randall Cobb, a favorite of Rodgers from their Green Bay Packers days, was a nice addition late in free agency.

Veterans Quinton Jefferson and Al Woods were brought in to replace Sheldon Rankins and Nathan Shephard on the interior of the defensive line. They should fit nicely in a rotation that will include All-Pro Quinnen Williams, Solomon Thomas (re-signed this offseason), John Franklin-Myers and Micheal Clemons (the latter two will play defensive end as well as tackle).

Billy Turner was the key signing on the offensive line. The veteran will compete with Duane Brown and Mekhi Becton for a starting spot and is a nice upgrade as a backup if he’s not a starter. Free agency also brought Wes Schweitzer, Trystan Colon and Yodny Cajuste to provide quality depth on the line.

New York did not overlook special teams, where they re-signed kicker Greg Zuerlein after a solid 2022 season and signed punter Thomas Morstead to replace the inconsistent Braden Mann.

The Jets re-signed center Connor McGovern, their starter the past three seasons, to compete with rookie Joe Tippmann. And they re-signed linebacker Quincy Williams, an important move to bring back the rising star on the defense.

That said, let’s focus on the riskiest free agency decision made by the Jets in the 2023 NFL offseason.

Jets did not replace Kwon Alexander at linebacker

Re-signing Williams to start alongside C.J. Mosley at linebacker was pretty much an absolute must for the Jets. Quinnen’s older brother is coming into his own at 26, starting 28 games the past two seasons and finishing second behind Mosley in tackles with 110 in 2021 and 106 last season.

But the Jets left a hole at their third linebacker position by not re-signing Kwon Alexander nor replacing him in free agency. Alexander played roughly 50 percent of the defensive snaps last season with the Jets often deploying a nickel package that featured an extra corner in Michael Carter II.

Still, Alexander was a valuable leader and solid contributor, especially against the run. Replacing the former Pro Bowl linebacker from within won’t be easy.

Right now, the Jets will trust either Jamien Sherwood or Hamsah Nasirildeen to fill Alexander’s role. Each is a third-year pro and converted safety with limited NFL experience. Sherwood is the better prospect of the two and capably stepped in last season when Williams missed two games.

There’s also rookie sixth-round pick Zaire Barnes, though he’s expected to be a special teams contributor and not in the mix to play a lot of snaps at linebacker.

Of course, even if Sherwood, let’s say, is up to handling the third linebacker role, what happens should Mosley or Williams get injured and miss time? The Jets’ depth chart at linebacker in painfully thin, so not addressing the situation could come back to haunt them.

However, there might be a solution out there that still makes sense. Re-sign Alexander. The 28-year-old is still available, wants to return and is a favorite of the coaching staff.

The Jets have a chance to right a wrong. Let’s see what they do before training camp begins next month.

The post Jets’ riskiest free agency decision in 2023 NFL offseason appeared first on ClutchPoints.

Ansbach schaltet Gebenbach aus und hofft auf Haching

Auch im Rückspiel setzte sich die SpVgg Ansbach mit 2:1 gegen den Bayernliga-Zweiten DJK Gebenbach durch und könnte damit den Klassenerhalt schon sicher haben. Dennoch steht jetzt erstmal eine weitere Runde an.

Verhaltener Jubel nach dem 2:1-Erfolg: Noch ist offen, ob der auch den Klassenerhalt für die SpVgg bedeutet.

Verhaltener Jubel nach dem 2:1-Erfolg: Noch ist offen, ob der auch den Klassenerhalt für die SpVgg bedeutet.


Regionalliga Aufstiegsspiele

Mit 2:1 setzte sich die SpVgg Ansbach am Freitagabend zuhause gegen die DJK Gebenbach durch. Nach dem 4:1-Hinspielsieg in der Oberpfalz war die erste K.o.-Runde in der Relegation zur Regionalliga Bayern letztlich also eine klare Sache für die Mittelfranken.

Im Rückspiel vor rund 1.500 Zuschauern setzte allerdings Gebenbach das erste Ausrufezeichen, als Lindner aus der Distanz die Latte prüfte. Ansbach hingegen startete verhalten, ließ den Gegner erstmal kommen – verständlich, stand doch dieser unter Druck, die klare Hinspielniederlage aufzuholen. Schelhorn hatte die erste gute Gelegenheit für die Heimelf auf dem Fuß, ehe er wenig später für das 1:0 sorgte: Nach einem Diagonalball nahm er die Kugel an und setzte sie zum 1:0 ins kurze Eck (37.). Es war gleichzeitig die Pausenführung; Gebenbach hatte nach der frühen Chance nicht mehr viel anzubieten.

Zehn Minuten nach Wiederanpfiff flackerte dann kurz neue Hoffnung auf für die Gäste: Ceesay netzte vom Strafraumeck etwas überraschend zum 1:1 (56.). Doch auch in Folge kam von Gebenbach zu wenig, um nochmals wirklich für Spannung zu sorgen. Gefährlicher trat weiterhin die Heimelf auf, die letztlich durch Brekner auch alles klar machen: Nach einem Steckpass legte er den Ball am Keeper vorbei und ins Tor und sorgte damit für Gewissheit – 2:1 (79.).

Und dabei blieb es, die abgezocktere Mannschaft setzte sich in diesem ersten K.o.-Duell verdient durch. Nun wartet allerdings noch der FC Memmingen auf Ansbach – die beiden Partien werden auf jeden Fall ausgetragen, auch wenn sie durch einen möglichen Erfolg der SpVgg Unterhaching in den Aufstiegsspielen gegen Energie Cottbus überflüssig werden würden. Sollte Haching nämlich aufsteigen, wären sowohl Ansbach als auch Memmingen in der kommenden Saison in der Regionalliga. Anderenfalls bekommt nur der Sieger aus dieser Ansetzung ein Ticket.

Frank Vogel is an upgrade over Monty Williams — for a discount price

Frank Vogel is an upgrade over Monty Williams, who is now with Detroit

A year after getting unceremoniously released through the trap door LeBron James has designed into the floor beneath the head coach’s seat on the bench, Frank Vogel has re-emerged as the head coach of the Phoenix Suns. The 49-year-old Vogel and the Phoenix Suns are familiar with each other’s games. Monty Williams’ Suns booted Vogel’s Lakers from playoff consideration in the penultimate game of their regular season.

On Friday, the Suns inked Vogel to a five-year, $31 million contract, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania. Last week, Vogel was named one of five finalists for the job alongside two assistant coaches, Doc Rivers, and Nick Nurse. After Nick Nurse accepted the Sixers job that reunited him with his former boss Daryl Morey, the Suns’ options became clearer. They had to take the best of the rest and Doc Rivers would have been a tough sell after his catastrophic three-year stretch in Philly.

Suns needed a veteran coach

With all due respect to Suns assistant Kevin Young and Sacramento Kings assistant Jordi Fernandez, this wasn’t a job management could afford to take a chance on a first-timer with. Vogel replaces Monty Williams, who was made the NBA’s highest-paid coach on Thursday. Vogel is earning half of Williams’ 13 million contract despite being a more accomplished coach. In three seasons as the Lakers’ head coach, Vogel went 127-98. Prior to that he coached the Orlando Magic for two seasons, and had his breakout success with the Indiana Pacers at the beginning of the 2010s, leading them to the playoffs every year but one, and advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals twice. In the 10 seasons he’s been a head coach, Vogel has been the defensive Mike D’Antoni, with seven teams ranking among the top 10 in defensive rating and three times finishing first.

An emphasis on defense

Vogel’s coaching history has emphasized the defensive end as the root of his team’s success. The scoring will come naturally now that he’s coaching an offense spearheaded by Kevin Durant and Devin Booker. The challenge for Vogel will be getting the most out of a roster that was depleted by the trade that brought them their greatest asset.

Vogel has experience in that arena as well though, assuming control in 2019 of a Laker team that was hollowed out by the trade which brought Anthony Davis to Los Angeles. Vogel will start a job that is pre-cooked on the Larry O’Brien Trophy grill. Vogel’s job is to craft a role for an aging Chris Paul. Amazingly, CP3 was still able to register more assists per night than all but 10 players, despite his body experiencing the final stages of rigor mortis. Due to his ballooning salary, the ideal trade Jones could make for Paul’s creaky joints would be with a med school that needs skeletons. Chances are, Paul will return.

Whether or not DeAndre Ayton is on the roster next season depends on how team president James Jones approaches restructuring the roster. However, in Vogel’s past stops he’s shown a preference for boa constrictor bigs who can choke off the paint and blot out the rim. Ayton’s 1.2 blocks per 48 minutes ranked outside the top 125 rotation players. However, he often appeared disgruntled with being in Phoenix in general.

That meager average put him behind guards such as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander or Suns teammate Kevin Durant, who swatted 2.8 shots per 48, or Bismack Biyombo, whose 4.2 blocks per 48 minutes ranked fourth in the entire league. Ayton doesn’t fit the mold of Vogel centers in the lineage of Roy Hibbert to Anthony Davis and Dwight Howard.

More importantly, Vogel has experience in high-pressure win-now environments. After grinding through three seasons in L.A. with aplomb, Vogel never lost his composure. If anything, he was the victim of circumstance in L.A. as James and Davis missed vast amounts of time after winning a title in their first go-round in 2020.

Vogel is an adrenaline-killing coach. The Suns won’t be fun to play. In fact, his teams will cause sleep crust to begin accumulating around your eyes, but give him a healthy roster with a high basketball IQ and you can practically guarantee he’ll get your team to the Conference Finals.

Follow DJ Dunson on Twitter: @cerebralsportex