NBA: Playoffs-Denver Nuggets at Phoenix Suns

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...


Past postseason disappointments and an uneven finish to this regular season be damned, the Nuggets sent a message Thursday during their 125-100 series-clinching Game 6 dismantling of the Suns. If you are not 100 percent locked in for every second, these Nuggets will embarrass you.

  • Nikola Jokic posted his third triple-double of the series with 32 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds. Jokic joined LeBron James and Russell Westbrook as the only players in NBA history to average a 30-point triple-double for an entire series.
  • Jamal Murray had 26 points, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope added 21, tying his playoff career high.
  • The Nuggets led 81-51 at halftime. It was the most first-half points by a road team in NBA playoff history.

I heaped a ton of praise on the Nuggets after their Game 5 win, and it wasn't enough. This offense is phenomenal. It exploits any weakness (the Suns had many). When a defense finally adjusts, the Nuggets have counterpunches galore. And don't sleep on a defense that has the length to make opposing wing scorers work for anything and everything.

The Nuggets are a well-oiled machine running at peak efficiency, writes our Colin Ward-Henninger.

  • Ward-Henninger: "If there's one advantage that the Nuggets will have over the Warriors or Lakers, it's their continuity. Michael Malone has settled on a tight, eight-man rotation that doesn't waver until garbage time. ... On both ends, Denver plays like a team that knows itself, and that can be extremely beneficial in a seven-game series, when a 'feel out game" can mean the difference between a trip to the NBA Finals and heading to Puerto Vallarta."


For the first 43 minutes, Jayson Tatum was abysmal, and it looked like an outstanding season would end with a stunning thud.

Good thing for both him and the Celtics, NBA games are 48 minutes, not 43. Tatum nailed four 3-pointers in the final 4:14 as Boston defeated the 76ers, 95-86, in Philadelphia to force Game 7.

  • Tatum had three points on 1-13 shooting through three quarters before pouring in 16 in the fourth.
  • Boston outscored Philadelphia 14-3 over the final 4:14.
  • That the Celtics were even within reach before Tatum finally got going was largely thanks to Marcus Smart (22 points) and Malcolm Brogdon (16 points) offensively and a remarkable effort defensively. The 76ers' 86 points were their second-fewest in a playoff game over the last decade.

Given Tatum's struggles for most of the game and the fact that they were at home, the 76ers will rue this missed opportunity, but they have no one to blame but themselves, writes our Michael Kaskey-Blomain.

Honorable mentions

And not such a good morning for...


Ever since Kevin Durant arrived in Phoenix, we wondered just how good the Suns could be. The only problem? The playoffs aren't about what you can be. They're about what you are. And the Suns are -- or, rather, were -- not even close to competing with the Nuggets.

Even with Durant in Phoenix, this year's ending was similarly disheartening to last year's, when they lost by 33 at home in Game 7 against the Mavericks.

  • Only three times in the shot clock era has a home team facing elimination trailed by 30+ at the half. The Suns are responsible for two of those games -- this year and last year.
  • Chris Paul (groin) missed the game completely, his fourth straight absence. Of course, the Suns lost the two games he did manage to play this series.
  • Deandre Ayton (ribs) was also out. Remember, Ayton only played 17 minutes in last year's disaster against the Mavericks under interesting circumstances. Phoenix very reluctantly brought him back in the offseason in what's been a roller-coaster relationship.
  • Weighed down by heavy workloads all series, Durant and Booker combined for just 35 points on 12-32 (37.5%) shooting.

More than anything, to me this proves life isn't a video game. You can't add superstar on top of superstar on top of Hall-of-Fame point guard on top of former No. 1-pick big man and turn it into a title. The rest of the players matter, too. Only three players -- Durant, Booker and Torrey Craig -- even appeared in every game this postseason as Monty Williams desperately tried to find answers that simply weren't there.

Here's the thing, too: Those answers might never come, at least for this iteration of the team. As our Sam Quinn notes, the new CBA will make roster-building near-impossible.

  • Quinn: "This makes Phoenix the rare contender that needs to de-consolidate. They don't need four great players. They need five or six good ones to go along with the two sure things that exist on their roster in Booker and Durant. In most cases, de-consolidation is a fairly straightforward process. ... But Phoenix? Neither of their two bloated contracts looks all that appealing right now."

The Suns thought Durant was their answer. Now, fairly or not, they have more questions than ever before.

Not so honorable mentions

NFL schedule release: Ranking the best game week-by-week, schedule reveal videos 🏈


The NFL schedule is here! Not just leaks. Not just rumors. You can feast your eyes on all 272 games here and team-by-team schedules here.

But before we can get to 272, we have to start with 16 -- the number of games in Week 1. Our Cody Benjamin ranked all of them. Coming in at No. 1 is...

  • Benjamin: "Bills at Jets (MNF) -- Josh Allen versus Aaron Rodgers. Need we say much more? Even after a relatively quiet offseason, Buffalo should remain among the AFC elite for its natural big-play ability. And the Jets, fair or not, now have Super Bowl dreams after making a Tom Brady-level bet on the longtime Packers QB. Rodgers will have no greater chance to prove he's still got it -- with a new club, no less -- than against a division rival under the Monday night lights."

And yes, odds for the games are already out.

At No. 2 is the Lions -- yes, the Lions! -- visiting the Chiefs in the Thursday-night season opener. I really enjoyed our NFL insider Jonathan Jones talking with the NFL's scheduling guru, vice president of broadcast planning Mike North, about how that matchup and others came to be.

Our Jared Dubin, meanwhile, ranked the top game for every week, and I don't want to get ahead of myself, but I can't help but look forward to an Eagles-Chiefs Super Bowl rematch in Week 11.

Here's what else to know:

Finally, team schedule release videos are almost as big as the schedules themselves, and here are all of them.

Stanley Cup Playoffs: Hurricanes blast past Devils, advance to ECF; Stars take key Game 5 🏒

New Jersey Devils v Carolina Hurricanes - Game Five
Getty Images

The Devils came into the second round flying high with their offense rolling and a young, talented roster not knowing any better. The Hurricanes gave those youngsters a heavy dose of reality, finishing New Jersey in five games thanks to a 3-2 overtime win Thursday.

  • Jesper Fast scored the series-winner 7:09 into the extra period, deflecting a Jesperi Kotkaniemi shot past Akira Schmid.
  • All three of Carolina's goals came on long-range shots, with defensemen Jaccob Slavin and Brent Burns also tallying.
  • Carolina awaits the winner of Maple Leafs-Panthers.

In Thursday's other game, the Stars surged past the Kraken, 5-2, to take a 3-2 series lead. Roope Hintz scored twice and assisted once, and Jason Robertson had three assists.

What we're watching this weekend 📺


🏒 Panthers at Maple Leafs, 7 p.m. on TNT
🏀 Knicks at Heat, 7:30 p.m. on ESPN
🏀 Warriors at Lakers, 10 p.m. on ESPN
🏒 Oilers at Golden Knights, 10 p.m. on TNT
Padres at Dodgers, 10:10 p.m. on MLB Network


🏒 Stars at Kraken, 7 p.m. on ESPN
Padres at Dodgers, 7:15 p.m. on FOX


🏀 If necessary: Lakers at Warriors, TBD
🏀 76ers at Celtics, TBD
🏒 If necessary: Maple Leafs at Panthers, TBD
🏒 Golden Knights at Oilers, TBD
Cardinals at Red Sox, 7 p.m. on ESPN