Vegas Bound

December 6, 2023

By: Carlos Alvarez

Good Morning 

Two more teams punched their tickets to Las Vegas and the NBA In-Season Tournament semi-finals. We’re still waiting to find out where Shohei Ohtani will end up. And there’s a new No. 1 team in this week’s NFL Power Rankings for the first time in over a month. Take a quick breath, team. Another big sports weekend is coming.

Letter Rip!


NBA Cup: Bucks & Lakers Join the Fun

Photo: Stacy Revere / Getty Images

Bucks Roll Knicks (146-122) & Lakers Hold Off Suns (106-103) to Reach NBA In-Season Tournament Semifinals

One blowout and one thriller, and then there were four. The Bucks smashed the Knicks and the Lakers held off the Suns on Tuesday night to fill out the next round of the NBA In-Season Tournament. The excitement of the inaugural event hasn’t dwindled, but Vegas awaits. It’s Bucks-Pacers and Lakers-Pelicans this weekend. Let’s rewind last night:

East: Bucks def. Knicks (146-122)

The Bucks obliterated the NBA’s best defense with 146 points in a second-half runaway. Milwaukee weathered a storm from Julius Randle (41 pts) who had 25 in the first half. The Bucks outscored the Knicks 71-50 in the second half, and Giannis put together a dominant, stat-stuffing 35-10-8 night on 15-for-22 shooting. It’ll be Bucks-Pacers in the In-Season Tournament semi-finals tomorrow night in Las Vegas.


J. Randle (NYK): 41 pts, 5 asts, 6 rebs

G. Antetokounmo (MIL): 35 pts, 10 asts, 8 rebs, 3 stls

D. Lillard (MIL): 28 pts, 7 asts, 3 rebs, 3 stls

J. Brunson (NYK): 24 pts, 6 asts, 3 rebs

West: Lakers def. Suns (106-103)

The ageless LeBron James continues to amaze. The Suns went into Los Angeles last night and played from behind for nearly 48 minutes, and LeBron just wouldn’t surrender. LBJ packaged a 31-11-8 night with five steals while shooting nearly 50 percent from the floor. Anthony Davis added 27 points and 15 boards, and the Lakers held off a second-half spurt from Phoenix. L.A. also got a “generous” timeout call in the waning seconds that might’ve saved them from a game-changing turnover. Kevin Durant (31 points) got a look at a game-tying 3, but it fell short for an airball. It’s the Lake Show against the Pelicans in Vegas tomorrow.


L. James (LAL): 31 pts, 11 asts, 8 rebs, 5 stls

K. Durant (PHX): 31 pts, 4 asts, 7 rebs

A. Davis (LAL): 27 pts, 15 rebs, 2 blks

IST Schedule in Las Vegas (Semi-finals)

East: Pacers vs. Bucks (Thurs. 5:00 pm ET, ESPN)

West: Pelicans vs. Lakers (Thurs. 9:00 pm ET, TNT)

NBA IST Finals: Saturday (8:30 pm ET, ABC)

Read More

AP: LeBron James Leads Lakers to In-Season Tournament Semifinals

Athletic: Bucks, Giannis Blow Past Knicks & Into In-Season Tournament Semifinals



NFL Power Rankings (14.0)

Image via Joe Stella / Media Mobilize

49ers Dethrone Eagles for No. 1; Teams 9-24 Are Separated by 2 Games or Less

For the first time in four weeks, there’s a new No. 1 team in the NFL. The Eagles held down the top spot through their November gauntlet that included wins against the Dolphins, Cowboys, Bills and Chiefs, but the 49ers exposed Philly\’s defense last Sunday. San Francisco is the best team in the league. But the top-8 teams — four from each conference — are destined for the postseason. Beyond that? Just two games separate our No. 9-24 teams. Sixteen squads are either 7-5, 6-6 or 5-7. And that makes for a wild December stretch run where every game matters.

Week 14 Matchups to Watch

Rams at Ravens (Sun. 1:00 pm ET)

Jaguars at Browns (Sun. 1:00 pm ET)

Seahawks at 49ers (Sun. 4:05 pm ET)

Bills at Chiefs (Sun. 4:25 pm ET)

Eagles at Cowboys (Sun. 8:20 pm ET)

Updated MVP Odds

1. QB Brock Purdy, 49ers (+300), 2. QB Dak Prescott, Cowboys (+325), 3. QB Jalen Hurts, Eagles (+350), 4. QB Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs (+600), 5. QB Lamar Jackson, Ravens (+700), 6. QB Tua Tagovailoa, Dolphins (+900) | All Others +1800 or Greater

Updated SBLVIII Odds

1. 49ers (+300), 2. Chiefs (+550), 3. Eagles (+550), 4. Ravens (+650), 5. Dolphins (+750), 6. Cowboys (+900), 7. Jaguars (+1300), 8. Lions (+1500) | All Others +4000 or Greater

NFL Power Rankings (Week 14)

1. 49ers (9-3) | ↑2

2. Eagles (10-2) | ↓1

3. Ravens (9-3) | ↓1

4. Dolphins (9-3) | ↑2

5. Cowboys (9-3) | —

6. Lions (9-3) | ↑2

7. Chiefs (8-4) | ↓3

8. Jaguars (8-4) | ↓1

9. Texans (7-5) | ↑2

10. Colts (7-5) | ↑5

Teams 11-20

11. Rams (6-6) | ↑8

12. Broncos (6-6) | ↓2

13. Bills (6-6) | —

14. Browns (7-5) | ↓2

15. Steelers (7-5) | ↓5

16. Seahawks (6-6) | ↓2

17. Vikings (6-6) | ↓1

18. Bengals (6-6) | ↑2

19. Falcons (6-6) | ↓2

20. Packers (6-6) | ↑2

Teams 21-32

21. Saints (5-7) | ↓3

22. Chargers (5-7) | ↑1

23. Raiders (5-7) | ↓2 

24. Buccaneers (5-7) | ↑1

25. Jets (4-8) | ↓1

26. Titans (4-8) | —

27. Cardinals (3-10) | ↑4

28. Bears (4-8) | —

29. Giants (4-8)  | —

30. Commanders (4-9) | ↓3

31. Panthers (1-11) | ↑1

32. Patriots (2-10) | ↓2

Read More

SI: NFL Power Rankings: 49ers Win NFC’s Heavyweight Battle for No. 1

The Ringer: NFL Power Rankings: Packers, Colts & Rams Soaring

Yahoo! Sports: NFL Power Rankings: A Great Team This Season? It’s Always Been the 49ers



Winter Meetings: Where Will Sho Go?

Photo: Michael Reaves / Getty Images

MLB Winter Meetings: Deals, Rumors, Guardians Win MLB Draft Lottery

One of these days, the Shohei Ohtani news is going to break the internet. Today might be that day. The 2023 MLB Winter Meetings are currently in full swing in Nashville, and the man everyone’s eyeing is still taking his time. Tuesday saw the Cleveland Guardians win the draft lottery for the franchise’s first No. 1 overall pick despite only a 2 percent chance. That was the big news of the day. The Yankees and Red Sox also made a rare rival transaction that sends Alex Verdugo to the Bronx. There are also rumors swirling that the Yanks are going after Juan Soto. But these are all consolation prizes in a week where Ohtani is the main event. The rumor mill suggests the Blue Jays have become major players for the two-way star, but Ohtani reportedly met with the Dodgers for 2-3 hours yesterday.

Latest Odds to Sign Ohtani

1. Dodgers (-175), 2. Blue Jays (+160), 3. Angels (+700), 4. Giants (+800), 5. Cubs (+1000), 6. Braves (+2000), 7. Mariners (+2500), 8. Yankees (+2800)

The biggest MLB contract ever seen is likely to be announced by the end of the week, but we’ll keep waiting. I read reports that suggested a price tag as high as $600 million for Ohtani. Brace yourselves.

Deals Done at Winter Meetings

Yankees Trade for Red Sox OF Alex Verdugo

Pirates Add LHP Marco Gonzales From Braves

White Sox Sign KBO MVP Erick Fedde to 2-Year, $15 Million Deal

Read More

MLB: Winter Meetings Roundup: ‘Trickle-Down\’ Effect Stalls Market, But Action Imminent

ESPN: Winter Meetings Update: Who Has (And Hasn’t) Met With Ohtani?




Sharks def. Islanders (5-4, OT)

*Tomas Hertl Nets Hat Trick

Wild def. Flames (5-2)

*Matt Boldy (2G, 1A) Leads Wild to 4th Straight

Senators def. Rangers (6-2)

*Tkachuk & Tarasenko Score 2 Goals Each

Red Wings def. Sabres (5-3)

*Detroit Wins 3rd Straight

Kings def. Blue Jackets (4-3, OT)
*LA Rallies From 3-0 Deficit in 3rd Period


#5 UConn def. #9 North Carolina (87-76)

#20 Illinois def. #11 Florida Atlantic (98-89)

 Soccer: USWNT Tops China (2-1)

For the second time in a week, the U.S. Women’s National Team beat China in a friendly, this time with a 2-1 win while using a much different lineup. Jaedyn Shaw hit the deciding goal that broke a 1-1 tie in the 79th minute.



 Predicting Bowl Games

The objective is to take the known information about the teams, estimate their personnel and coaching landscape as best as possible, assess game location, motivation and other factors and spit out predictions for the bowl season. (ESPN+)

 Could Ohtani Stay With Angels?

It seems likely that at some point in the next seven to ten days, two-way superstar and two-time unanimous AL MVP Shohei Ohtani will make a free agent decision and pick his next team. But could he end up staying with the Angels? (CBS Sports)

 An NHL In-Season Tournament?

The NBA’s in-season tournament has added a new twist—and excitement—to the league. It is only fair to wonder if the NHL would ever consider introducing its own version of an in-season tournament and what it could look like. (B/R)





Today\’s Must-Watch List


Spurs at Timberwolves (7:30 pm ET, ESPN)
Nuggets at Clippers (10:00 pm ET, ESPN)


Stars at Panthers (7:00 pm ET, TNT)

Hurricanes at Oilers (9:30 pm ET, TNT)

 Premier League

Man. United vs. Chelsea (3:15 pm ET, NBC/Peacock)

 NCAA Basketball

M: #12 Texas at #8 Marquette (8:00 pm ET, FS1)

W: #4 Iowa at Iowa State (7:00 pm ET, ESPN2)

Download The Sportsletter\’s Must-Watch Calendar