On this day in sport: Pistons stun Lakers for NBA glory, Jack Nicklaus makes history

By Sports Desk June 15, 2020

June 15 is a momentous sporting date that the Detroit Pistons and their fans will not forget in a hurry.

Sixteen years ago on this day, the team earned an emphatic 4-1 win over favourites the Los Angeles Lakers to seal glory in the NBA Finals.

This date also represents the 40-year anniversary of a famous day in golfing history, when Jack Nicklaus broke a record at the U.S. Open.

We look back at some of the top moments to occur on June 15 in the world of sport.


2004 - Pistons top Lakers 4-1 in NBA Finals

The Pistons sealed a stunning 4-1 series win over the Lakers on this day in 2004, with a 100-87 win in Game 5 ensuring they secured glory in Michigan.

Richard Hamilton top-scored with 21 points, Ben Wallace starred with 22 rebounds and Chauncey Billups had a game-high six assists.

Billups was named Finals MVP as coach Larry Brown savoured his first championship, his underdog team having won three straight after going down to an overtime loss in Game 2.

Game 5 was notable as the last game for Shaquille O'Neal, Karl Malone and Gary Payton for the Lakers, who had won previously three straight titles between 2000 and 2002.

This remains the Pistons' most recent NBA title, as they lost a thrilling Finals series 4-3 to the San Antonio Spurs the following year and have not returned since.

The Lakers, meanwhile, reached three straight Finals when coach Phil Jackson returned to the team later in the decade, winning two, including their last triumph in 2010.

Kobe Bryant top-scored with 24 points in a losing effort against the Pistons in Game 5.

He would go on to be named NBA Finals MVP in each of their 2009 and 2010 successes, moving on to five rings in the process.


1980 – Nicklaus sets record in U.S. Open triumph

Jack Nicklaus' fourth and final U.S. Open victory was a special one in 1980.

The American set a new tournament scoring record with an eight-under par score of 272 to win his fourth title at the event, finishing two shots clear of Japanese challenger Isao Aoki.

Nicklaus had started the week with a magnificent 63 to take a share of the first-round lead, and led by two after a more steady effort of 71 on day two.

After moving day, he was in a share of the lead with Aoki while four other players, including Tom Watson, were within two shots.

A thrilling finale was in store for June 15 and Nicklaus delivered with a 68 to claim his 16th major, 18 years after winning his first U.S. Open.

He romped to US PGA glory later that year, before his 18th and final major arrived six years later at the 1986 Masters.
 

1974 - Evert wins first of seven French Opens

American Chris Evert holds the women's singles record with an astonishing seven French Open titles.

She won the first of her Paris crowns on this day in 1974, emphatically defeating the third seed, Russian Olga Morozova, 6-1 6-2.

In the absence of Margaret Court, who had beaten her in a three-set thriller in the previous year's final, top seed Evert thrived.

She went through the whole tournament without losing a set, with German Helga Masthoff, the fourth seed, seen off in the semi-finals in a tougher test than she ended up having in the showpiece.

Evert also won Wimbledon that year as part of a sensational 55-match winning streak.

She successfully defended her French Open title the following year, and her third success in 1979 started a streak of five wins in the space of five years.

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  • LeBron James makes NBA history, Nets' Durant joins exclusive club and Doncic matches MJ LeBron James makes NBA history, Nets' Durant joins exclusive club and Doncic matches MJ

    LeBron James made history following his season-high performance as defending NBA champions the Los Angeles Lakers stayed perfect on the road with a 115-108 win at the Cleveland Cavaliers.

    James posted 46 points to lead the Lakers past former team the Cavaliers in Cleveland, where the Los Angeles franchise improved to 10-0 away from home on Monday.

    Lakers superstar James – who had 21 points in the fourth quarter – became the first player in NBA history to tally 46 points, eight rebounds, six assists, two blocks, two steals and seven three-pointers made, per Stats Perform.

    Behind James' mammoth display, the Lakers became the sixth team in history to start the season with a 10-plus game winning streak on the road.

    Anthony Davis contributed a double-double of 17 points and 10 rebounds, while Andre Drummond led the Cavaliers with 25 points and 17 rebounds.

    Elsewhere, Kevin Durant stayed hot as the Brooklyn Nets took down last season's NBA Finals participants the Miami Heat 98-85.

    Durant registered his 14th consecutive double-double, becoming the fourth player in league history to do so alongside Wilt Chamberlain, Adrian Dantley and Dominique Wilkins.

    Bam Adebayo's double-double of 26 points and 10 rebounds were not enough for the Heat, who have lost three straight.

     

    Red-hot Doncic matches MJ

    Luka Doncic recorded another triple-double (35 points, 16 assists and 11 rebounds) in the Dallas Mavericks' 117-113 loss to the Denver Nuggets. It was his 31st career triple-double. Doncic tied Hall of Famer Michael Jordan (16) for the eighth-most 30-point triple-doubles in NBA history. The 21-year-old Mavericks star also matched Magic Johnson (31) for the second-most triple-doubles before the age of 23.

    Stephen Curry put on a show with a game-high 36 points to fuel the Golden State Warriors' 130-108 victory at home to the Minnesota Timberwolves. He was 11-of-21 from the field, while he made seven of 12 three-point attempts.

    The Indiana Pacers beat the Toronto Raptors 129-114 thanks to Malcolm Brogdon's career-high 36 points.

    Jerami Grant (25 points, eight rebounds and five assists) and Delon Wright (28 points, seven rebounds and nine assists) became the first Detroit Pistons dup to record 25-plus points, five-plus rebounds and five-plus assists in the same game since Rodney Stuckey and Tayshaun Prince in 2012. The Pistons upstaged the Joel Embiid-less Philadelphia 76ers 119-104.

     

    Curry struggles as Philly feel Embiid's absence

    Embiid sat out due to back tightness, and the Eastern Conference-leading 76ers fell. Seth Curry – Philadelphia's best shooter – was just two-of-10 from the field, while he only made one of four shots from beyond the arc for seven points.

     

    From way back!

    Stephen Curry was at his brilliant best against the Timberwolves – a long-range three the icing on the cake for the two-time MVP.

     

    Monday's results

    Detroit Pistons 119-104 Philadelphia 76ers              
    Indiana Pacers 129-114 Toronto Raptors
    Orlando Magic 117-108 Charlotte Hornets
    Brooklyn Nets 98-85 Miami Heat
    Los Angeles Lakers 115-108 Cleveland Cavaliers
    Denver Nuggets 117-113 Dallas Mavericks
    Boston Celtics 119-103 Chicago Bulls
    Golden State Warriors 130-108 Minnesota Timberwolves
    Oklahoma City Thunder 125-122 Portland Trail Blazers
    Sacramento Kings-Memphis Grizzlies (postponed)
    San Antonio Spurs-New Orleans Pelicans (postponed)

     

    Clippers at Hawks

    The Los Angeles Clippers (13-4) will look to make it eight consecutive wins when they visit the Atlanta Hawks (8-8) on Tuesday.

  • LaFleur's costly caution leaves Packers & Rodgers to lament another wasted year of Super Bowl window LaFleur's costly caution leaves Packers & Rodgers to lament another wasted year of Super Bowl window

    Fortune favours the bold. It is a phrase has been used so often that it has become a worn-out cliche. But cliches are cliches because they consistently ring true, and that famous Latin proverb applied at Lambeau Field on Sunday as the Green Bay Packers and Aaron Rodgers suffered more playoff heartache.

    Their forlorn efforts in last year's NFC Championship game rout at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers still fresh in their minds - defensive coordinator Mike Pettine showed the game to his group last week in an attempt at motivation - the Packers reached the same stage this season seemingly well placed to put those memories behind them and reach Super Bowl LV.

    The top seed in the NFC, the Packers matched up significantly better with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers than they did the Niners last year and had the potentially crucial advantage of playing in freezing conditions at Lambeau Field in front of 8,500 fans.

    And yet, with the chance to force a compelling back-and-forth encounter into overtime, the Packers - specifically their head coach Matt LaFleur - shied away from the opportunity, taking a conservative approach that ultimately proved their undoing.

    LaFleur's costly caution

    Green Bay faced a fourth and goal from the Tampa Bay eight-yard line trailing 31-23 with a little over two minutes left in the fourth quarter.

    If LaFleur had needed evidence of how to approach this situation, it came at the end of the first half when, rather than punting and settling for a 14-10 half-time lead, Bucs head coach Bruce Arians went for it on fourth down and, a play after converting to keep the drive alive, gave Tom Brady the green light to launch a 39-yard bomb to Scotty Miller that put Tampa Bay 21-10 to the good.

    Rodgers and the Green Bay defense helped the Packers recover from a 28-10 third-quarter deficit and move into striking distance. However, when it came time to make a crucial decision, LaFleur ignored the old axiom and instead opted for caution, taking the ball out of the hands of his best player as he elected to kick a field goal and trust his defense to get the ball back.

    It was a task that proved beyond them as a contentious pass interference penalty gave Tampa a game-sealing first down, leaving Rodgers to reflect on another year in which the Packers came up short.

    Wondrous Rodgers

    LaFleur's rejection of the aggressive approach that served Arians well at the end of the second quarter ensured that one of the best seasons of Rodgers' Hall of Fame career was wasted.

    Rodgers is a near-lock to win the third MVP of his career after a season in which he took an offense of the Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay ilk to new heights.

    He led the league in completion percentage 70.7, threw for 4,299 yards, a league-leading 48 touchdowns and just five interceptions.

    His TD-INT ratio of 9.60 was the sixth-best in NFL history and second among quarterbacks to have played 16 games in a season, behind his 2018 mark of 12.50.

    Tied for third in the NFL with 37 passing plays of 25 yards or more, few offenses were more explosive than that of the Packers in 2020, with Rodgers' adjusted net yards per attempt figure of 8.89 tied for sixth of all-time.

    That is the same number Patrick Mahomes posted in his 2018 MVP season and, just like the Kansas City Chiefs that year, the end result for the Packers was a devastating loss.

    Unlike the Chiefs, the Packers now face the prospect of significant changes in the offseason that could impact their ability to continue to contend in the NFC.

    A challenging offseason

    In an offseason where the salary cap could shrink to $175million, the Packers may lose center Corey Linsley and running back Aaron Jones to free agency, while Davante Adams, who led the NFL in receiving touchdowns (18) and yards per game (98.1) in the regular season, is a candidate for a lucrative contract extension.

    The Packers, therefore, face some tough decisions in the offseason and it is the lack of clarity over how the team will look in the immediate future that seemingly led Rodgers to describe his own future as "uncertain" in his post-game media conference. 

    Rodgers may have been over-dramatic in the heat of the moment and another season with the Packers appears more likely than a move elsewhere or his retirement.

    But the downcast attitude Rodgers presented after the game was indicative of a quarterback who knows that Super Bowl windows are, for most teams, ephemeral by their nature.

    With his fourth-down call, LaFleur ensured another year of the Packers' window slipped through their fingers. If they now struggle to keep a formidable team together and Rodgers' career ends without a second Super Bowl ring, LaFleur's rejection of the bold will be remembered as a key reason why.

  • Can Inter or Milan deny Juve the Scudetto? - Stats Perform AI completes Serie A season Can Inter or Milan deny Juve the Scudetto? - Stats Perform AI completes Serie A season

    Inter beat Juventus. Juventus beat Milan. Milan beat Inter. For once it has been tough to predict the title race in Serie A.

    Winning the Scudetto was not enough for Maurizio Sarri to keep his job at Juve last season, meaning Andrea Pirlo is under significant pressure as the Bianconeri chase a 10th straight league crown.

    However, they have struggled to convince under the former midfield metronome and sit seven points adrift of leaders Milan in fourth, although they hold a game in hand.

    There has seemingly never been a better chance for Inter, who are two points off top in second, and Milan to end Scudetto droughts that date back to 2009-10 and 2010-11 respectively.

    Fans and pundits will continue to have their say on who will sit top come the end of the season, and the Stats Perform AI team have also crunched the numbers to predict the champions for the 2020-21 campaign.

    With the majority of the 20 teams having reached the halfway stage of the league campaign, they have simulated how the rest of the season may play out.

     

    The data model estimates the probability of each match outcome – either a win, draw or loss – based on each team's attacking and defensive quality.

    Those ratings are allocated based on four years' worth of comprehensive historic data points and results, with more weighting given to recent matches to account for improvements or declines in form and performance trends.

    The AI simulation takes into account the quality of the opposition that a team scores or concedes goals against and rewards them accordingly.

    All that data is used to simulate upcoming matches using goal predictions from the Poisson distribution – a detailed mathematical model – with the two teams' attacking and defending ratings used as inputs.

    The outcome of the season is then simulated on 10,000 different occasions in order to generate the most accurate possible percentage chance of each team finishing in their ultimate league position.

    Without further ado, let's have a good look at the results of the simulation with the predicted final league table.

     

    INTER END JUVE'S REIGN

    Although they sit second at the halfway stage, our model predicts Inter will end Juve's dominance of Serie A.

    Inter have a 35.7 per cent chance of topping the table for the first time since their treble-winning campaign of 2009-10 and it is projected they will do so by a two-point advantage.

    Not only do Milan surrender top spot to the Nerazzurri, they slip behind Juve into third with the top three separated by just three points. It would still represent their best finish since 2012-13.

    Juve's chance of retaining the title is deemed to be 23.1 per cent, marginally better than Milan's 21.6 per cent.

    ATALANTA RETURN TO CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

    Gian Piero Gasperini steered Atalanta to Champions League qualification for the first time in their history in 2018-19 and made it back-to-back top-three finishes last season.

    They are predicted to return to Europe's premier club competition by finishing fourth, edging out Napoli – they even have a 6.8 per cent chance of pulling off an unlikely title win.

    Gennaro Gattuso's side have a 17 per cent probability of snatching the final Champions League qualification berth, with Atalanta's prospects narrowly superior at 17.4 per cent.

    Roma are predicted to fall from their current position of third down to sixth but that is still good enough for them to deny arch-rivals Lazio qualification to the inaugural Europa Conference League.

    The top six may need to beware of Sassuolo, Hellas Verona and Sampdoria, however. Sassuolo have a 0.3 per cent likelihood of finishing inside the top four, while Verona (0.6 per cent) and Sampdoria (0.3 per cent) also have an outside chance of stealing European qualification, though our predictor suggests Lazio will finish 12 points clear of Sassuolo in seventh.

     

    GENOA AND TORINO ESCAPE DROP

    At the turn of the year Torino were rock bottom with one win from their opening 14 games and Genoa were in the relegation zone with them.

    However, Torino and Genoa have both moved out of the bottom three by claiming six points and eight points respectively over their past five games.

    The two sides are predicted to maintain strong enough form to stay out of the drop zone, with Crotone (20th), Parma (19th) and Cagliari (18th) projected to suffer relegation to Serie B.

    It is by no means a guarantee, though. Genoa are only 0.2 per cent more likely to come 17th than they are to suffer relegation by finishing 18th, while Torino's differential between 15th – where they are predicted to place – and third-bottom is 2.7 per cent.

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