Philadelphia 76ers v Boston Celtics - Game Five
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Good morning to everyone but especially to...


From near-disaster to domination. From "injured star" to "thriving MVP." After nearly blowing a 16-point lead to the Celtics in Game 4, the 76ers broke away for an incredibly impressive 115-103 Game 5 win in Boston and are now one game away from their first conference finals since 2001.

  • Joel Embiid had 33 points, seven rebounds and four blocks, and James Harden had 17 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds.
  • But Tyrese Maxey was the biggest difference with 30 points and seven rebounds, by far his best game of the series. Maxey scored 12 points in the fourth quarter alone; he had zero fourth-quarter points in the previous three games.
  • It was Philadelphia's largest postseason win in Boston since 1982.

It wasn't just that the Big Three was great. So, too, were Tobias Harris (16 points, 11 rebounds) and Danuel House (10 points, five rebounds). The defense played well, too, though Boston's ice-cold shooting certainly helped -- more on that later. The visitors had a 49-36 rebounding advantage and a 15-5 advantage in points off turnovers. Add in the shot-making and balance, and you get a stunning, spectacular win.

Out in Denver, Nikola Jokic smiled and shook hands with Suns owner Mat Ishbia before the game, putting their Game 4 scuffle behind them. Then Jokic and his Nuggets teammates shredded Ishbia's team, blasting Phoenix 118-102 to take a 3-2 series lead.

  • Jokic posted 29 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists for his 10th career playoff triple double, passing Wilt Chamberlain for most ever by a center.
  • Bruce Brown was magnificent with 25 points off the bench.
  • But the biggest story might be Michael Porter Jr. rediscovering his jumper. After going 4-13 in Game 4, Porter went 7-11, including 5-8 from deep, and finished with 19 points. He delivered exactly what Denver needs from him, writes our Jack Maloney.

When the Denver offense is firing on all cylinders, it is a whirling dervish of delights. Jokic, Brown, Jamal Murray and Aaron Gordon all can initiate, and Porter can be a lethal shooter. There are cuts and fakes and passes and screens that make your head spin. The Suns are probably still dizzy.

Honorable mentions

And not such a good morning for...


There are many ways to describe what we saw from the Celtics in Game 5, None of them are pleasant. I think the one I'll go with is dud.

In their biggest game so far this season, with a chance to reclaim control of the series in front of a raucous TD Garden crowd, the Celtics put up an absolute dud, to the point that the once-crazed crowd resorted first to boos and then to an early exit. Now, the Celtics themselves are barreling towards exiting the playoffs.

How bad was it? Let Jack explain:

  • Maloney: "They weren't just below their standards, they were woeful, turning in one of their worst efforts on [offense] all year. ... Their 39.8 percent field goal percentage was their sixth-worst mark all season, their 31.8 percent showing from downtown was tied for their worst of the playoffs and the nine missed free throws were a season-high."

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have too often been good-but-not-great, and in the playoffs, you need greatness from your stars. But we can't let the supporting cast off the hook, either. The other three starters -- Marcus Smart, Al Horford and Derrick White -- went 4-20 from the field. The Celtics lost Game 1 when Embiid didn't play and Game 4 when they botched the last possession. Those were true missed chances. In Game 5, they didn't even give themselves a chance.

To be fair, in the other Game 5, the Suns didn't really give themselves a chance, either.

The Suns' largest lead was one point, and they held that lead for all of 14 seconds. With Devin Booker and Kevin Durant merely very good instead of otherworldly good, an inconsistent supporting cast struggling and Chris Paul still out, the Suns offense plummeted.

The good news is Paul could be back for Game 6, and the Suns have won both of their home games this series. The bad news is the Suns lost Games 1 and 2 when Paul played, and there's no longer any margin for error. A group hastily constructed to be a superteam, the Suns haven't been anything close to that this series.

Not so honorable mentions

UEFA Champions League: Real Madrid, Manchester City draw; previewing AC Milan-Inter ⚽

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One leg down, one to go, and there will be everything to play for next week in England after a 1-1 draw between Manchester City and Real Madrid in Spain.

  • City looked the better side early on, but it was Madrid which tallied first on a thunderous hit from Vinicius Junior in the 36th minute.
  • Madrid did a wonderful job limiting the Citizens' attack for most of the night, but Kevin De Bruyne leveled things with a laser in the 67th minute.
  • Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti insisted the goal shouldn't have counted. Here's why.
  • Both sides had plenty of chances, but Madrid's Thibaut Courtois and City's Ederson (especially late) made big saves, and both keepers earned strong marks in our player ratings.

In a game featuring overwhelming attacking talent, the defenses dominated, writes our James Benge.

  • Benge: "This night brought with it a case for the great quality of soccer, that great offense does not necessarily beat great defense every time. Luka Modric and Bernardo Silva can weave as many elegant patterns as they like but if the offside traps hold firm, the tackles are made and the goalkeepers stand firm, defense can just about carry the day. Neither Madrid nor City could make it as far as a clean sheet but both left their opponent with only one route to goal: the simply magical."

The second semifinal gets underway today with AC Milan hosting Inter in the latest chapter in an incredible rivalry. Our Francesco Porzio ranked the 10 tensest Derby della Madonnina matchups, and it's no surprise that their meeting in this setting -- the Champions League semifinal -- 20 years ago is No. 1.

Francesco also put together the best XI combining the teams from that semifinal and this one, and AC Milan superstar Rafael Leao is in the hypothetical squad. But will Leao even be available today? We have an injury update on him and projected lineups here.

Here's what else to know:

Denny Crum, legendary Louisville coach, dies at 86 🏀

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Hall-of-Fame basketball coach Denny Crum, who led Louisville to a pair of national titles, died Tuesday at 86. Crum led the Cardinals to championships in 1980 and 1986, the program's only two officially recognized titles.

  • Crum's 1980 team -- the "Doctors of Dunk" -- featured "Dr. Dunkenstein," Darrell Griffith. In 1986, it was another great nickname, "Never Nervous" Pervis Ellison, leading the way alongside Billy Thompson and Milt Wagner
  • Crum coached 30 seasons at Louisville, amassing a 675-295 record (.696 win pct) and making 23 NCAA Tournaments and six Final Fours.
  • He entered the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1994.

Crum -- who played under John Wooden at UCLA -- was so much more than his numbers, though, notes our Matt Norlander.

  • Norlander: "He lifted, then legitimized, Louisville basketball and in doing so kept the Cardinals apace in many seasons with their superior in-state rivals, the Kentucky Wildcats. In fact, as Kentucky faded amid cheating scandals in the 1980s, Louisville hit its peak as a program. The embers of that rivalry, which Crum helped renew in 1983 after it was dormant since the 1950s, helped stoke a Bluegrass State competitiveness that's led to many in Kentucky swearing by the notion that UK-Louisville — not Duke-North Carolina — is the fiercest/best rivalry in college basketball."

What we're watching Wednesday 📺

AC Milan vs. Inter, 3 p.m. on CBS and Paramount+
🏒 Maple Leafs at Panthers, 7 p.m. on ESPN
🏀 Heat at Knicks, 7:30 p.m. on TNT
🏒 Golden Knights at Oilers, 10 p.m. on ESPN
🏀 Lakers at Warriors, 10 p.m. om TNT