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The Eastern Conference-leading Nets’ two-point victory over the Knicks put them ahead 102-101 all-time — exactly 45 years to the day of their first crosstown matchup. Meanwhile, on the West Coast…

Are the Suns Even Better?

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Suns last won 17 straight games in 2006-07, back when Steve Nash was throwing alley-oops to Amar’e Stoudemire.

They tied that franchise record last night with a win over the 18-3 Warriors — and became the sixth team in NBA history to finish 16-0 in a single month.

It was the latest display of the defensive dominance that put them in the Finals last year — and now, an already elite defense has taken a major leap in several metrics.

  • They’ve improved from sixth in defensive rating (110.4) last year to second (103.5) behind the Warriors this year.
  • The Suns are the only team to hold GS to fewer than 100 points.
  • They held Steph Curry, the NBA’s second-leading scorer, to 12 points on 4-21 FG and 3-14 3PT — the worst shooting game of his career (min. 20 FGA).

Last night was the latest testament to the importance of forward Mikal Bridges, who carries the burden of covering opposing teams’ superstars — and made Curry his latest victim.

He nabbed four steals, and Phoenix was 21 points better with him on the floor.

Bridges signed a four-year, $90 million contract this offseason and is emerging as an early DPOY candidate — his 12.6 net rating ranks fifth among players averaging 30+ minutes.

The first-place Suns are now 12-1 against teams .500 or better — the best in the NBA — and face the Warriors again on Friday.

Harbaugh’s No. 2-Ranked Michigan

Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

Jim Harbaugh conquered his biggest demon this weekend, beating Ohio State for the first time as Michigan head coach.

On Tuesday, the Wolverines were awarded the No. 2 spot in the College Football Playoff rankings — the highest in program history. With a win over Iowa in Saturday’s Big Ten Championship Game, Michigan could clinch the school’s first appearance in the Playoff.

Harbaugh has been only modestly successful since leaving the NFL for his alma mater in 2014, but Michigan has generally been patient — and backed up its confidence financially.

The question now is if he can transfer this momentum into Big Ten and CFP titles — and earn some big incentives.

  • Harbaugh signed a seven-year deal that initially paid him $5 million per year. His annual salary was increased to $7 million in 2016.
  • After he went 49-22 — and 1-4 in bowl games — from 2015-20, he still received a five-year extension in 2021.
  • He would add bonuses for winning the Big Ten East ($500K), the conference ($1M), the CFP semifinal ($500K), and the CFP championship ($1M).

If the Wolverines can end their dream season with a CFP title, it will be the program’s 12th national championship and first since 1997. It would also likely keep Harbaugh in Ann Arbor for as long as he wants.

As for the incentives, Harbaugh has said that he will donate his bonus money to Michigan employees affected by COVID pay cuts.

Seattle’s Drought-Ender?

Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports

Robbie Ray’s sensational breakout season resulted in a big payday for the lefthander, as expected.

The team that shelled out was the Mariners, owners of North American sports’ longest postseason drought — and they gave out the second-biggest free-agent deal in franchise history.

The surprise 2021 AL Cy Young Award winner officially signed a five-year, $115 million contract on Tuesday, joining a Seattle rotation that desperately needed an ace.

  • In ’21, the Mariners starters ranked 19th in ERA (4.61), 18th in WHIP (1.32), and 23rd in Ks (705) — and fell two games short of their first postseason berth since 2001.
  • Ray (13-7) led MLB in Ks (248) and led the AL in ERA (2.84), WHIP (1.04), IP (193.1), and WAR (6.7) for the Blue Jays.
  • His contract is the second-largest in Mariners history behind Robinson Cano’s 10-year, $240 million deal in 2014.

The deal’s $23 million yearly average is a major upgrade from the $8 million Ray earned last season in Toronto — and only a shade lower than the combined salaries of the Mariners’ starters this season ($24.8M).

Easily the highest-paid player on the roster, Ray’s presence at the top of the rotation is the Mariners’ first step to end years of playoff misery.

Making Headlines

Troy Taormina & Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

NBA: The Bulls and Heat will surrender their next available second-round picks for tampering in their signings of Lonzo Ball and Kyle Lowry, respectively. Also: LeBron James sat out the Lakers’ 117-92 victory over the Kings after entering the league’s health and safety protocols and is expected to miss several games.

NCAAM: No. 1 Duke coughed up a 15-point second-half lead and fell to Ohio State 71-66. The Blue Devils dropped to 7-1, and the Buckeyes improved to 5-2.

NHL: C Jack Hughes signed an eight-year, $64 million extension with the Devils.

MLB: RP Raisel Iglesias signed a four-year, $58 million contract with the Angels. Also: SP James Paxton signed a one-year, $10 million contract with the Red Sox.

Today's Action

*All times are EST unless otherwise noted.
*Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See for details.

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