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Who Needs Hot Takes With A Finals This Fun?

First, we take a look at the NBA Finals. Despite media takes swinging from the Suns being dominant to the Bucks having the edge, these teams remain closely matched. One of the joys of this series, in fact, is the chess match of how Phoenix and Milwaukee are adjusting to each other in each game. Another joy is Giannis Antetokounmpo, who has put up 40-point performances in back-to-back games. He is on pace for comparisons to MJ and Shaq, but if the Bucks stick the landing, it will be something they do as a team (and/or something Deandre Ayton’s foul troubles do to the Suns). Whatever happens the rest of the series, it should be very fun to watch these two teams trade volleys and try their best not to be the team that loses at home. Anything, and everything, is still possible.

Next, we spend our MLB All-Star break saluting the biggest surprise of the season so far, the San Francisco Giants, and allowing ourselves to shuffle around our World Series draft picks a little bit. Geoff probably fared the best through this first stretch of the season, holding onto the Dodgers, Mets, White Sox and Blue Jays and only trading out the Phillies for the Reds. Sara also has teams that are probably playoff-bound, keeping control of the Yankees, Astros, Rays and Brewers, and swapping the Angels for those surging Giants. Neil needed the help most, as he elected to trade the Twins for the Red Sox and the Ronald Acuña-less Braves for the Phillies after Geoff dropped them. He still has the Padres, A’s and Nationals, though, so you never know. We also discuss this year’s enjoyable Home Run Derby and the ways it could be improved. If Coors Field is booked next year, we suggest Mount Everest.

Finally, in place of the Rabbit Hole, we treat ourselves to a little rant about the state of  English soccer after England’s loss to Italy in the European Championship finals. There was a lot that went wrong: from going with such a conservative — dare we say Spurs-esque? — style of play and allowing Italy to dominate the ball, to not changing tactics once the game was a draw, to the last-minute substitutions that set up some of the squad’s youngest players to fail, to the concept of penalty shootouts generally, to the inevitable racist abuse directed at the players who missed their PKs. We can’t answer why England’s national team is like this, but we can always hope that Gareth Southgate’s squad will do better. The worst of the fans might be a lost cause. 

What we’re looking at this week: 

  • Giannis is getting stronger and so are the Bucks’s chances. 
  • These MLB players are All-Stars on bad teams.   
  • Are penalty shootouts the fairest way to break football deadlocks? 

Sarah Shachat is Hot Takedown’s producer.

Sara Ziegler is the former sports editor at FiveThirtyEight.

Neil Paine was the acting sports editor at FiveThirtyEight.

Geoff Foster is the former sports editor of FiveThirtyEight.