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Who has the edge: Heat-Celtics could go the distance, and why it could be in Heat’s favor

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Ravens kicker Justin Tucker’s record-breaking kick honored as NFL’s Best Moment of the Year

About the only sure thing in the Eastern Conference finals is take the under.

This will not be about who can outscore who.

Instead, this well could be how low can you go?

Which, to a degree, makes sense, considering how Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo believes that the 2022 NBA Defensive Player of the Year award won by Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart should be his.

It starts Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. at FTX Arena, continuing every other night until the Heat or Celtics secure the necessary four victories to advance to the NBA Finals against the winner of the Western Conference finals between the Dallas Mavericks and Golden State Warriors.

The familiarity is ample, with the Heat having defeated the Celtics in six games in the 2020 Eastern Conference finals at the Disney World quarantine bubble amid the initial COVID breakout. This time the fans at 601 Biscayne Boulevard and TD Garden will be added into the equation, with the Heat to host Games 1 and 2, and then Games 5 and 7, if needed, by virtue of securing the regular-season No. 1 seed over the No. 2 Celtics.

The matchups will be both fluid and compelling.

Center: Of all the memorable moments in Heat-Celtics playoffs lore, Adebayo’s block of Jayson Tatum at the conclusion of Game 1 of the 2020 East finals might stand as most iconic. Adebayo’s agility in that series forced the Celtics to rethink their approach in the middle. This time around, Boston is loaded with options – and potential fouls – in the middle to throw at Adebayo, when considering Robert Williams, Grant Williams, Al Horford and Daniel Theis. Edge: Heat.

Power forward: P.J. Tucker’s hustle was relentless, with the Heat’s 37-year-old power forward then rewarded with six days off between the Heat closing out the Philadelphia 76ers and the start of this round. This time the Celtics will come with an outside-shooting threat of their own, be it Grant Williams of Horford. At this point, it is discount Tucker at your own risk. Edge: Even.

Small forward: Not sure there is a better matchup in the playoffs at this point than the Heat’s Jimmy Butler vs. Tatum. The reality, though, is that the Celtics can shift Smart onto the defensive assignment here because of the lack of the other significant offensive wing threats in the Heat starting lineup. At most other junctures, Tatum would get the nod here. But at this juncture, an argument could be made that Butler is playing as well in the postseason as anyone, with the possible exception of the Dallas Mavericks’ Luka Doncic. Edge: Heat.

Shooting guard: This is where the Celtics might hold the swing vote among the starters. With all due respect to what the Heat’s Max Strus has accomplished since his insertion into the starting lineup in March, Boston’s Jaylen Brown is simply at another level. And it is the two-wing circumstance with Tatum and Brown that makes the Celtics unique. Strus will have to be at the top of his game, as he was at the close of the 76ers series, to keep this competitive. Edge: Celtics.

Point guard: A series like this is why the Heat added Kyle Lowry in the offseason, for a feistiness-vs.-feistiness battle against the Celtics’ Smart. And then Lowry’s left hamstring acted up three games into the first round. And then it acted up again against the 76ers. Now Smart figures to have room to roam against capable Heat fill-in starter Gabe Vincent, including stints against Butler. Edge: Celtics.

Bench: The Celtics have shored up their bench with the additions of Theis and Derrick White and the shotmaking of Payton Pritchard. The depth would be further bolstered by Robert Williams getting back to speed. But, as in those 2020 East finals, this is where Tyler Herro has to make a stand. To win the series, the Heat probably will have to do it by committee, which could require ample contributions from the likes of Herro, Victor Oladipo, Dewayne Dedmon, Caleb Martin, and possibly even Duncan Robinson. Edge: Heat.

Coaches: There is ample respect both ways between coaches who trace their roots to Portland, Ore. The Heat’s Erik Spoelstra was a finalist for NBA Coach of the Year, while Boston’s Ime Udoka arguably was NBA coach of the second half of the season, named Eastern Conference coach of the month for February and March. Udoka’s growth has been impressive. But Spoelsrta has been here, done this, beaten Boston. Edge: Heat.

Intangibles: Lowry’s hamstring is a huge, huge question mark, but so is the troublesome left knee of the Celtics’ Robert Williams, with both forced to miss time this postseason. The Celtics’ ultimate advantage in pushing past the Milwaukee Bucks was hosting Sunday’s Game 7 by virtue of their No. 2 East seed. As the No. 1 East seed, the Heat gets to host a potential Game 7 against the Celtics. Edge: Heat.

Prediction: The seeming one sure thing is that this will not be a short series. That said, as mentioned above, Game 7 will have a decided South Florida slant. Heat in 7.

Eastern Conference finals

Game 1: Tuesday, FTX Arena, 8:30 p.m., ESPN

Game 2: Thursday, FTX Arena, 8:30 p.m., ESPN

Game 3: Friday, TD Garden, 8:30 p.m., ABC

Game 4: May 23, TD Garden, 8:30 p.m., ABC

Game 5*: May 25: FTX Arena, 8:30 p.m., ESPN

Game 6*: May 27, TD Garden, 8:30 p.m., ESPN

Game 7*: May 29: FTX Arena, 8:30 p.m., ESPN

* – If necessary.

(No local television in conference finals.)

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Minnesota United gives away late lead in Miami

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Minnesota United gives away late lead in Miami

For so much of the second half, Minnesota looked comfortable and ready to take a much-needed victory.

Shockingly, Inter Miami, the second-worst goal-scoring team in MLS notched two goals in the final three minutes to flip the script and take a 2-1 victory in the first MLS meeting between the two teams.

“[We] put ourselves in a great spot,” manager Adrian Heath said. “Put ourselves in a really good position. We’re not doing enough, it doesn’t look as though it’s enough to concede goals and lose games.”

Inter Miami forward Indiana Vassilev only made it into the game as a late-game bench substitution, but he made the most of his opportunity scoring in the 87th and 90th minute to give his team a victory, surpassing Minnesota’s one-goal lead it held since the 65th minute.

The Loons’ defense had kept Minnesota in the game for each chance Inter Miami had for the first 86 minutes, but the team couldn’t get the stops near the end to come up with the victory.

“At those times of the game, you need to do whatever you can to just beat your man,” Loons defender Michael Boxall said.

Minnesota’s victory looked nearly locked up as the Loons held the 1-0 difference into the final five minutes of the game. That goal followed a resilient start to the second half after many chances weren’t finished.

The Minnesota goal scorer was Luis Amarilla, who put the ball past the Inter Miami goalkeeper in tight in the 65th minute. It was his first goal in MLS play since March 19.

Amarilla was in such a position to score the goal so close to the keeper because of an acrobatic one-touch centering pass from Franco Fragapane. The play all began from Emmanuel Reynoso getting the ball on the right side of the attacking zone. He cut towards the middle and sent a lofting kick that found the airborne Fragapane for his assist.

While Minnesota finally found the back of the net in the back half of the game, there was no shortage of missed opportunities earlier in the contest.

“We’re not good enough at one end, and we’re not good enough at the other, and that’s not a good recipe,” Heath said. “We’ve got to get more and more determination to get on the things in the box and we’ve certainly got to defend the goal better.”

By the end of the game, Inter Miami had eight shots on target, while Minnesota had just one, the Amarilla goal.

The loss marks the first since Minnesota announced Heath’s two-year contract extension through 2024 on Thursday. The defeat also adds to a 1-6-1 stretch over the Loons’ last eight games, including Saturday night.

Heath said on Wednesday that the goal was to come away with four points in this road trip at Inter Miami on Saturday and on Wednesday at L.A. Galaxy. With the loss to Inter Miami, that goal is no longer possible.

The Loons must keep looking forward to get back on track and into playoff contention. After the loss on Saturday, Minnesota sits 11th in the Western Conference Standings, five points outside of the seventh spot, the cutoff for the playoffs.

“The good thing is that it’s a quick turnaround,” Boxall said. “Not quite looking ahead to L.A. just yet, we still need to process this game and figure out what we need to address, because that should be three points we’re taking home tonight.”

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Twins record second shutout in three days in win over Rockies

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Twins record second shutout in three days in win over Rockies

Puffy white clouds filled the blue skies above Target Field and sunlight bounced off buildings that make up the Minneapolis skyline. It was the kind of summer night at the ballpark that Minnesotans dream about throughout the long winter months.

It was the perfect night at Target Field and the hometown team, well, they were nearly perfect, too. Twins pitchers gave up just one hit (and five walks), and the team captured a first-inning lead on its way to a 6-0 win over the Colorado Rockies on Saturday night at Target Field.

A day after getting shut out for the 10th time this season, tying the league lead, Luis Arraez and Byron Buxton made sure early on that the Twins wouldn’t suffer the same fate. Arraez snapped an 0-for-11 stretch to begin the game and Buxton, back in the lineup for the first time since Tuesday, followed that up with his first triple since 2019.

After missing time this week after his knee flared up, Buxton turned on the burners, with a sprint speed of 29.3 feet/second (30 ft/sec is elite) on the triple, losing his helmet along the way. When he reached the base, he pounded his chest a couple times, smacked his hands together and let out a roar.

While the Twins left Buxton on third, they added on throughout the game, tacking on a run in the second on Arraez’s second hit of the game, two more in the fifth and two more in the seventh.

Alex Kirilloff drove in three of those runs, one on a sacrifice fly and the other on a double off the right field wall, bringing home Max Kepler — who walked three times in the game — and Kyle Garlick. The double was his fourth in eight games since being recalled from Triple-A.

All that offense came in support of Chris Archer, who worked five innings and allowed just one hit — a single to former Twin C.J. Cron in the second inning — and a walk in his outing.  Archer pitched out of that second-inning jam, retiring the next three batters in a row, the first of 12 straight that he sent down to conclude his start.

His start was followed by a scoreless inning each from Jharel Cotton and Griffin Jax and two from Tyler Thornburg. Twins pitchers have now thrown two shutouts in their past three games, and in Friday’s loss, they gave up just one run.

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A Pride timeline: Gay rights in Minnesota from 1858-2022

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A Pride timeline: Gay rights in Minnesota from 1858-2022

1858: Joseph Israel Lobdell, born Lucy Lobdell, is arrested for “impersonating a man.” A judge in the rural camp community of Forest City, Minn., sided with Lobdell, ruling that he did not act unlawfully.

1877: Minneapolis rules crossdressing as illegal, putting gender-nonconforming Minnesotans at risk for imprisonment.

1969: The Stonewall riots begin in New York City after police raids occur in the gay-friendly bars and community spaces of Lower Manhattan. These riots serve as a public turning point in American LGBTQ+ history.

May 18, 1969: University of Minnesota alumni found Fight Repression of Erotic Expression, or FREE, the first LGBTQ+ rights organization in the state. Founders Jack Baker and Michael McConnell become the first same-sex couple in the nation to apply for a marriage license, an application that is rejected by Hennepin County. Their legal case is dismissed by the U.S. Supreme Court in one sentence.

1972: The first Twin Cities Pride celebration is held in Minneapolis’ Loring Park.

Dec. 9, 1972: Minnesota state Sen. Allan Henry Spear indicates he is gay in an interview with the Minneapolis Star, making him the first openly gay state legislator in the United States.

June 1982: Bruce Brockway becomes the first documented recipient of an HIV diagnosis in Minnesota. After his diagnosis, he founded the Minnesota AIDS Project to provide resources to HIV-positive Minnesotans.

1993: Gender- and sexuality-based discrimination is outlawed in Minnesota, making it the first state in the nation to adopt the policy.

1997: Sicaŋgu Lakota man Nicholas Metcalf and his partner, Korean-American Edd Lee, found the Minnesota Men of Color, an organization that focuses on the well-being of men, women and gender-nonconforming people of color.

2012: Amendment 1, which limits marriage rights to only heterosexual couples, is rejected by the majority of Minnesota voters. Same-sex marriage is legalized in the state.

June 2015: The U.S. Supreme Court releases a decision in Obergefell v. Hodges finding that same-sex marriage cannot be banned in any state and must be recognized nationally. Gay marriage is legalized.

June 25-26, 2022: After two years of pandemic-related cancellations, the Twin Cities Pride parade and festival returns to Minneapolis.

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