We begin at the end … at least for the Philadelphia 76ers, who were bounced from the first round of the NBA playoffs by the Boston Celtics. The Sixers’ (somewhat incomplete) “process” of deliberately tanking for several years in order to build up a championship winning super-team obviously hasn’t yielded the results they hoped for. But the failure of The Process, ultimately, had less to do with hoarding draft picks and more to do with failing to form the players into a cohesive unit. (Boston’s great defense also helped sabotage the Sixers.) Meanwhile the Toronto Raptors never faced much in the way of a threat from the Brooklyn Nets, but they put on an impressive first-round performance all the same — especially their bench shooting 100 in Game 4. Whoever survives the second-round series between the Raptors and Celtics just might be the team to beat in the Eastern Conference.
Next, we take a look at Major League Baseball’s looming trade deadline, figuring out which teams our Doyle number says should be buyers and which should be sellers. But this is, obviously, a weird year, with many more teams in contention for the playoffs and a lot of financial uncertainty. So, apart from the Boston Red Sox, who we think have to be opening up the store, we’re not sure there’s going to be too much trading. And since we are — somehow — at the midpoint of baseball’s regular season, we give out our midseason MVP, Rookie of the Year and Cy Young Awards. There’s a fair amount of overlap, as Sara, Neil and Geoff all agree that Shane Bieber is the American League Cy Young winner so far, and everyone’s appreciative of Fernando Tatís Jr., even though Neil makes the case for Mookie Betts as the National League’s MVP. But each member of the Hot Takedown team makes their own case for several other candidates, and only some of them happen to be on Sara’s fantasy team.
Finally, in the Rabbit Hole, Neil and Geoff explore the increasingly common phenomenon of golfers shooting 59 for a round, which PGA Tour rookie Scottie Scheffler did over the weekend. A lot of the increase in super-low scores comes down to better equipment, smarter training and courses that don’t necessarily punish golfers for making a mistake. But it’s only possible to fix the last thing. Now instead of “Tiger proofing” golf courses, the PGA may need to “everyone proof” them.
What we’re looking at this week: