NBA playoffs and Caitlin Clark’s WNBA Draft night, plus Scottie Scheffler’s Tiger turn

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Good morning! Free chicken for everyone. 

The Week Ahead: All hail the Western Conference

There are normal basketball weeks, and then there’s this week. Yesterday’s NBA regular-season finale, usually a quiet day, was electric. Playoff matchups are set, with the Play-In starting tomorrow. And tonight, we have one of the most interesting WNBA Drafts ever. 

We’ll start with the current pros. Here’s our Eastern Conference playoff path:

Two things: 

  • Boston is the East’s massive favorite, but I would be wary of Philadelphia, which sits in the seventh spot and has a Play-In date with the Heat on Wednesday. That game will be so, so fun.
  • The Knicks should be thrilled to earn the No. 2 seed, but I have doubts about their way through without Julius Randle. Maybe Jalen Brunson averages 35 points a game while playing 48 minutes every night. 

And here’s the West:

041424 Westplayoffbracket%402x 1

Oh baby. This is our best bracket, due to the outright talent across the board. Two things: 

  • Huge, huge props to the Thunder for snagging the No. 1 seed, edging out the defending champion Nuggets. I am stoked to see how the youngest No. 1 in league history looks in a playoff series.
  • Every single series is exciting. The Mavs and Clippers have a long playoff history. Minnesota, just one game back of the top seed, instead gets to see Kevin Durant and Devin Booker. LeBron James, Steph Curry and Zion Williamson are all on Play-In teams. Whew. 

And before all that, Catilin Clark gets her moment tonight: 

We have more basketball fun later, too. But first, green things:

Legacies: Scottie Scheffler claims an era

A couple of months ago, we were all worried about Scottie Scheffler’s putter. One club stopped the best ball striker since Tiger Woods from becoming arguably the best overall player since Tiger. 

There are no worries anymore. Not for Scheffler, who lapped a competitive Masters field yesterday for his second green jacket in three years. His close-out was astonishing to watch. With the win, he becomes the clear-cut best player of this era

Just look at these numbers: 

  • Scheffler now has nine PGA Tour wins, which includes those two majors, two Players Championships and two Arnold Palmer Invitational victories. There are three players with two green jackets and two Players Championships: Jack Nicklaus, Woods and Scheffler. Gadzooks.
  • Scheffler, 27, is the fourth-youngest player to win two Masters titles. The others: Nicklaus (25), Woods (25) and Seve Ballesteros (26).
  • He’s been No. 1 in the world for 83 of the last 107 weeks. It’s hard to envision him falling from the perch anytime soon

There is a scenario in which Scheffler enjoys another 10 years of prime golf, too. Who’s out there to stop him from racking up major wins? Rory McIlroy last won a major in 2014. Brooks Koepka has had a nice comeback, but is nowhere as consistent. Jon Rahm is possible, but he missed the cut this week. 

Justin Ray compiled a list of staggering stats from Scheffler’s win, making more than one comparison to Woods. Brendan Quinn also wrote a beautiful ode to golf’s unknowns, which were never more present than they were yesterday at Augusta National. 

  • Another Masters story I loved: Neal Shipley, the low amateur this week in Augusta, got to play with Tiger Woods on Sunday, an experience the Ohio State grad student will never forget. Brendan Quinn has a great write-up on Shipley’s dream week.

News to Know

White Sox add Pham
Tommy Pham is joining the Chicago White Sox on a minor-league deal, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported. It’s been a strange offseason for Pham, who helped guide the Diamondbacks to the World Series last year and yet could not find a job over the winter. The 36-year-old was No. 33 on our MLB Free Agent Big Board but had to wait until the first month of the season to land with the league’s worst team on a minor-league deal. Strange.

Gauthier’s quick turnaround
Boston College hockey star Cutter Gauthier signed a contract with the Anaheim Ducks and is set to make his NHL debut tomorrow, just three days after losing the NCAA title game. This also comes months after Gauthier spurned the Philadelphia Flyers, who selected him fifth overall in 2022. What a year.

More news

Things You Need to See: Boban delivers chicken

At Clippers home games, fans get free chicken sandwiches from Chick-fil-A if the opposing team misses two straight free throws. Boban Marjanović, playing for the visiting Rockets yesterday, stepped to the free throw line after missing his first shot. The crowd was frothy. 

Marjanović, one of the league’s best personalities, played to the crowd and delivered one of the season’s best moments on its last day:

That’s an intentional miss in Game 82 in a contest that didn’t matter for playoff positioning. With sandwiches at stake. Click the gif to watch the video, which features a deliriously funny call from the Clippers’ announcers. 

There’s a nearly 100 percent chance I say, “HE GAVE THEM CHICKEN! HE’S A MAN OF THE PEOPLE!” randomly to my wife this week.

Watch This Game

NHL: Bruins at Capitals
7 p.m. ET on NHL Network/NESN
All the Western Conference playoff spots are clinched, but we still have work to do in the East. Five teams are vying for two spots, including the Caps, who get to play the Atlantic division leader while clinging to a wild card spot via tiebreaker. It’s going to be a fun week. 

MLB: Royals at White Sox
7:40 p.m. ET on ESPN+
The White Sox are putrid already, but the Royals are a lovely surprise at 10-6. They’re just a half game back in what should be a competitive AL Central this year. Small sample size? Maybe. If so, watch while they’re fun. If it’s real, get in early.

Pulse Picks

Friday, Katie Strang published a shocking, in-depth report on the rape and sexual assault allegations against former Kentucky swimming coach Lars Jorgenson. I urge you to read the full story

Did the free-agent deals for Saquon Barkley and Josh Jacobs signal a change in how the NFL values running backs? Jeff Howe looked at the numbers and came away with no

I loved this from Max Olson: the five types of college programs you meet in the transfer portal. No one’s better than Max at writing on the portal. 

The Mark Pope hire at Kentucky may have been met with initial resistance, but his rousing Rupp Arena introduction was enough to rile up college basketball’s most passionate fan base. 

Most-clicked in the newsletter yesterday: The latest update on the Arizona Coyotes possible/probable relocation to Salt Lake City

Most-read on the website yesterday: If you didn’t see it, Caitlin Clark’s SNL cameo is worth a watch.

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(Photo: Zach Beeker/ Getty Images)

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