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NBA Tier List: Warriors, Suns remain the cream of the crop

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With health and safety protocols taking centre stage around the NBA, precisely judging how good or bad teams actually are has become more of a crapshoot than anything else.

So, to make things easier, we’re primarily judging clubs based on how they’ve performed in their most recent games to try to keep things as fair as possible.

Here’s how we view the league right now in the latest edition of the NBA Tier List.

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Tier 1: The NBA’s Fab Five

No changes at the top from last week as these five squads remain the cream of the NBA’s crop.

In particular, the Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns look to be the two teams to beat this season and their highly-entertaining Christmas Day contest over the weekend really did feel like an early preview of what this season’s Western Conference Final will be like.

Tier 2: Just a tad outside top tier

The four sitting here in the second tier could very well make a run at the top tier sooner than later with no bigger surprises than the Cleveland Cavaliers and Memphis Grizzlies.

The Cavs are 11-3 in their last 14 games and have done so without Colin Sexton, who is out for the season with a knee injury, leading to a huge step up from his backcourt-mate Darius Garland, of whom is making a major all-star push.

Rookie sensation Evan Mobley and key centre Jarrett Allen are both in health and safety protocols at the moment, so things may get a little tougher for the Cavs this week, but a 20-13 record on the season doesn’t lie. They are for real.

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Similarly, the Grizzlies sports a 20-14 record on the season, and while they’ve recently lost three of their last four games, their 11-4 record in their last 15 games is good enough evidence that they have the right personnel to get the job done on a nightly basis.

There’s an adjustment period that Memphis is going through again with Ja Morant’s return to the lineup, as well as Dillon Brooks entering health and safety protocols, but there’s no reason to think they won’t be alright.

Tier 3: Decent teams of late

Kemba Walker was notoriously benched by New York Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau at the end of November, leading to him missing 10 straight games. However, with the Knicks dealing with COVID like much of the rest of the league, Thibodeau had no choice to rescind his decision and inserted Walker back into the lineup and it’s resulted in a 2-2 Knicks record that’s seen Walker explode for a 26-point, seven-assist per game average over those last four games, including a 44-point eruption against the Washington Wizards.

Looking elsewhere at this tier, the San Antonio Spurs have quietly won four of their last five games and have crept up into a play-in tournament spot at No. 10 in the Western Conference. Meanwhile, reigning MVP Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets is actually putting up better numbers this season than he did than a season before and his 32.72 PER is actually on pace to become the highest in NBA history.

Tier 4: The true moribund middle

There are 10 teams here at the fourth tier, and as the subtitle suggests, this is where the actual “middle of the pack” of the league lies. It just so happens, though, that the NBA’s middle at the moment is incredibly uninspiring with most of the teams at this level mired in slumps.

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The best example of this: the Los Angeles Lakers, who have lost five straight including their last four where LeBron James has averaged an obscene 35 points, 9.8 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game on 58.2 per cent shooting.

It’s a tired narrative, as it’s one that’s been talked about for seemingly his entire career, but with Anthony Davis still expected to miss another month of action and Russell Westbrook as infuriatingly inconsistent as ever, you have to wonder if James does, in fact, need more help again.

Tier 5: The NBA’s Failing Five

Of the five teams down here in the basement, the most disappointing to see are the Portland Trail Blazers, although given how their season has unfolded it’s not altogether unexpected.

From the investigation to the eventual firing of general manager Neil Olshey, to all the trade speculation that was swirling around Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, to the bombshell news that McCollum had suffered a collapsed lung (although, thankfully it’s been reported that his lung has fully healed), it’s been a season of nightmares for the Blazers, who have now won only three times in their last 14 games.



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Three Stars from Day 3 of WJC: Canada’s McTavish joins elite company – Sportsnet.ca

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Canada and the U.S. dominated in their second game of the tournament while Czechia and Finland went toe-to-toe and needed a shootout to determine a winner on Day 3 of the World Junior Hockey Championship.

The Canadian team rebounded from a sluggish performance with an 11-1 win over Slovakia, a game in which captain Mason McTavish added his name to the country’s record books.

Against Switzerland, the United States took their game to another gear that their opponent could not match as they cruised to a 7-1 victory to improve to 2-0 at the tournament.

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Finland dropped a crucial point as they had to overcome a 2-0 deficit but were able to pick up the shootout win over their rival Czechia.

Here is a look at the top performances from Day 3 of the world juniors.

3rd Star: Luke Hughes, USA

Coming from a great hockey family, Luke Hughes is making most of his opportunity as one of the top defencemen for the U.S. 

The younger brother of Quinn and Jack displayed his mobility and vision against Switzerland with a three-point effort. He now has five points in his first two games of the tournament — more than either of his brothers ever achieved at this event in fewer games.

Hughes leads all defenceman in scoring so far in the tournament and is tied for fourth overall.

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The 18-year-old played 21:18 against the Swiss to lead the U.S. in ice time playing on the top pairing with Brock Faber. His play from this point will be a crucial part of his team’s success given the creativity he displayed, especially on Matt Coronato’s goal in the second period.

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He made another top-notch set up on Thomas Bordeleau’s power-play goal in the third period as he delayed enough to get the defenders to pull towards his side of the ice.

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2nd Star: Carter Mazur, USA

Coming into the tournament, Carter Mazur is looking to build off an impressive season at the University of Denver. 

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While he was in a scoring slump in his first NCAA season, the Detroit Red Wings prospect made a call to his NHL team’s assistant director of player development, Daniel Cleary. After that, he would go on to finish with 14 goals and 38 points in 41 games.

Those tips have now turned Mazur into a scoring machine as he accounted for two of the team’s seven goals and was also named the player of the game as the top line of Mazur, Landon Slaggert, and Thomas Bordeleau had an impressive performance against Switzerland

After a scoreless first period, Mazur wasn’t going to make any mistake on a point-blank chance in front of the net with Mackie Samoskevich making a great pass from behind the net.

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With the Americans looking to add to their lead, Mazur was once again the beneficiary of a great pass from Slaggert as he made no mistake from the front of the net.

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He added another assist on Slaggert’s goal later in the period for his third point of the game. Through his first two games at the world juniors, Mazur has four points and is tied for sixth in scoring.

1st Star: Mason McTavish, Canada

On a night where Canada dominated from start to finish, Mason McTavish joined some elite company with a night he’ll certainly remember for a long time.

The 19-year-old joined Mario Lemieux, Simon Gagné, Brayden Schenn, Taylor Raddysh, Maxime Comtois and teammate Connor Bedard as the only players to score four goals in a single world junior game for Canada. The tournament record for goals in a single game is held by Sweden’s Ola Rosander who had six back in 1987.

With his performance against Slovakia in a dominant win for Canada, McTavish now sits atop the scoring lead with eight points in two games after registering six points in this game.

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McTavish scored his first goal of the game on a breakaway — with Canada already leading 5-0 midway through the second — making no mistake to beat Tomas Bolo, who came into the game after starter Simon Latkoczy was pulled going into the second period.

His second goal came off a great play by Joshua Roy who flipped the puck in the air to Brennan Othmann who then set up McTavish as he finished with a backhander to put Canada up 7-1. McTavish would complete the second-period hat trick, a day after Alexander Blank did the same for Germany, after a selfless pass from Roy on a 2-on-0 break.

Canada would capitalize on a turnover on McTavish’s fourth goal as Othmann set him up alone in front of the net and he made no mistake.

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There was some doubt about whether McTavish would suit up for Canada after playing a fair amount of hockey last season. Making his NHL debut with the Anaheim Ducks, the third overall pick from the 2021 NHL Draft played in a total of 72 games between the NHL, AHL, OHL, Memorial Cup and the Olympics.

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Instead, McTavish decided to join the team in Edmonton and take on the role as captain where he has excelled centring Canada’s top line with Bedard and and a rotation of Roy and Othmann.

Canada will now look forward to a matchup against Czechia with a chance to improve to 3-0.

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Field of Dreams Game 2022: A celebration of baseball memories in an Iowa cornfield

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The Field of Dreams is an opportunity for fans and players alike to reflect on the people and places that taught them to love baseball, Jake Mintz writes.



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Ravens extend NFL record for consecutive postseason wins following Thursday’s victory over the Titans

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USA Today

The No. 21 is now synonymous with the longest winning streaks in NFL regular and preseason history. the 2003-04 Patriots won 21 consecutive games, an NFL record. On Thursday night, the Ravens won their 21st consecutive preseason game after securing a 23-10 decision against the Tennessee Titans

Baltimore has not lost a preseason game since 2016. Joe Flacco was their starting quarterback when the streak began, while Steve Smith Jr., who this past year was eligible for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the first time, was heading into his final NFL season. Baltimore’s roster also included Terrell Suggs, who was entering his second-to-last season with the franchise. 

Along with not losing preseason games, another constant in Baltimore over the past six years has been kicker Justin Tucker, who is entering his 11th season with the Ravens. Tucker’s field goals of 47, 25 and 47 yards on Thursday night helped Baltimore pull out the win after falling behind midway through the second quarter. 

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The Ravens won Thursday’s game by winning the turnover margin while holding the Titans to 1 of 3 red zone efficiency. One of those turnovers was scooped up by Kyle Hamilton, the Ravens’ first-round pick in this past year’s draft. 

Baltimore won despite the efforts of Malik Willis, the Titans’ rookie quarterback who overcame a slow start to score his first NFL touchdown, a 7-yard run early in the second quarter. Speaking of quarterbacks, the Ravens received a strong night from Tyler Huntley, who completed all but two of his 18 pass attempts that included his game-winning touchdown pass to Shemar Bridges



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