The Lakers host the Jazz for their final regular season game at Arena in Los Angeles on Sunday, Apr. 9, 2023.
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Good morning to everyone but especially to...


Two playoff bids will be clinched tonight -- and two other teams will be pushed to the brink -- as the NBA Play-In Tournament opens with a pair of games:

The winner of each game will be the No. 7 seed in their respective conferences. The loser will play the winner of tomorrow's contests on Friday, and the winner of that game will claim the No. 8 seed. You can see all the details here.

Let's start with Timberwolves-Lakers, specifically Minnesota, because the biggest storyline is who won't be there: Rudy Gobert has been suspended one game after punching teammate Kyle Anderson in the regular-season finale.

  • Gobert will be available for the Timberwolves' next game, whether that's in the playoffs or in the play-in elimination game.
  • The Timberwolves will also be without Jaden McDaniels after he fractured his hand punching a wall in frustration earlier in the game.
  • Of note, Minnesota has played better recently with Gobert off the court. Over the last 10 games, they have a +5.7 net rating when he's not playing; only the Celtics had a better net rating than that this season.

The Lakers, on the other hand, are finally fully healthy and rolling. They've won nine of their last 11 games and are a unanimous pick to win by our experts. You can see all of our play-in picks here.

In the first game, the Hawks are looking for some revenge after the Heat beat them in five games in the first round last year. Miami absolutely hounded Trae Young in that series, so Dejounte Murray has to step up, and Atlanta has to play fast, writes our Brad Botkin.

Meanwhile, a big trade rumor surrounding Young popped up Monday.

Honorable mentions

And not such a good morning for...


The Clippers' daunting first-round task -- taking down the Suns -- just got a lot tougher. Paul George (knee) will miss the beginning of the series.

  • George sprained his knee March 21 and was initially expected to miss two-to-three weeks. Today marks three weeks since then. The series with the Suns begins Sunday.
  • This season, the Clippers have a +4.0 net rating with George on the court and a -2.6 net rating with him off it. Essentially, they're similar to the 51-win Grizzlies when he plays and worse than the 34-win Magic when he doesn't.
  • The Suns, of course, are 8-0 when Kevin Durant plays and are the overwhelming favorite to win the Western Conference, even as the No. 4 seed.

With George out, the Clippers not only lose their most prolific 3-point shooter (158 makes, most on the team) but also a terrific, lengthy and athletic wing defender who -- alongside Kawhi Leonard -- could take on Durant or Devin Booker. Though the Clippers have terrific depth, George is a premier two-way player, and the Clippers' margin for error was already thin before this news.

Not so honorable mentions

Team grades from the WNBA Draft 🏀

2023 WNBA Draft
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Ever since Aliyah Boston entered the WNBA Draft, she was seen as the no-doubt No. 1 pick, and on Monday, the Fever followed through in their first time ever with the top selection.

It was the expected choice, and it was the right one, writes our Jack Maloney.

Here's how the top half of the first round unfolded:

  • 1. Fever: Aliyah Boston (C, South Carolina)
  • 2. Lynx: Diamond Miller (G, Maryland)
  • 3. Wings: Maddy Siegrist (F, Villanova)
  • 4. Wings (traded from Mystics): Stephanie Soares (C, Iowa State)
  • 5. Dallas Wings: Lou Lopez Senechal (F, UConn)
  • 6. Atlanta Dream: Haley Jones (G/F, Stanford)

You can see full draft results here.

One player who was expected to go in the top five but didn't gave the Storm an "A" grade, writes our Jack Maloney. 

  • Maloney: "Seattle Storm: Jordan Horston (G, Tenneesse): Horston falling all the way to No. 9 was a bit surprising, but the Storm won't be complaining... At 6-foot-2, Horston has great size and athleticism on the wing, defends and is an underrated playmaker... she has a ton of potential. A great addition for the Storm as they try to rebuild post-Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird."

So, who crushed the draft overall? Jack assessed winners and losers.

UEFA Champions League quarterfinal expert picks, bold predictions ⚽

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The UEFA Champions League is back with quarterfinal action opening today on Paramount+. Here's what's on tap:

That first game, of course, is unbelievably star-studded. Our soccer experts ranked the top 50 players left in the tournament, and the top two belong to Manchester City.

  • 1. Erling Haaland, forward, Manchester City
  • 2. Kevin De Bruyne, midfielder, Manchester City
  • 3. Karim Benzema, forward, Real Madrid
  • 4. Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, winger, Napoli
  • 5. Thibaut Courtois, goalkeeper, Real Madrid

But it's Bayern Munich who had the most players of any team -- 10 to be exact -- on that list. That has our experts split on today's result. But Tom Fornelli still had to make a choice for his Corner Picks, and here's his best bet:

  • Fornelli: "I have a hard time envisioning a scenario in which City don't win. Bayern will be without their leading scorer Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting. While Tuchel's had plenty of experience managing teams without a striker, I don't know that Munich will be able to sit back and absorb blows for 90 minutes. City will find a way to break them down eventually, if not multiple times, and I don't fully trust Bayern to answer. The Pick: Manchester City (-135) "

Here's everything else to get you ready:

Will Odell Beckham Jr. help Ravens keep Lamar Jackson? 🏈

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Odell Beckham Jr. has joined the Baltimore Ravens, and whether he can be an impactful player in his comeback from yet another ACL tear is to be determined. What's already certain, though, is that his signing has some pretty wide-ranging implications.

Let's start with his own team:

If Jackson does indeed remain in Baltimore, our Jeff Kerr says Beckham will be the second-best wide receiver Jackson's ever had... and he'll be part of the best wide receiver room Jackson's ever had.

  • Kerr: "This is more of an indictment of what Jackson has had to work with at wide receiver over the years, yet the position is significantly improved with Beckham. If Rashod Bateman can stay healthy in 2023, Baltimore has a decent 1-2 punch with Beckham and Bateman on the outside. ... Baltimore still needs more depth at the position, but the trio of Beckham, Bateman and Nelson Agholor makes the position formidable."

Remember, Aaron Rodgers was hoping Beckham would join the Jets (which Rodgers himself is yet to do but eventually will... allegedly. Still, this shouldn't cause many issues with that, Jeff writes.

What we're watching Tuesday 📺

Manchester City vs. Bayern Munich, 3 p.m. on Paramount+
Benfica vs. Inter Milan, 3 p.m. on Paramount+
🏒 Maple Leafs at Lightning, 7 p.m. on ESPN
Padres at Mets, 7:10 p.m. on TBS
🏀 Hawks at Heat, 7:30 p.m. on TNT
🏒 Oilers at Avalanche, 9:30 p.m. on ESPN
🏀 Timberwolves at Lakers, 10 p.m. on TNT