Good morning, I’m Dan Gartland. Two teams that looked like toast last week suddenly have new life.
In today’s SI: AM:
😲 Trouble for two title contenders
🏈 The ‘blast radius’ of the Deshaun Watson signing
🕵️ A juicy baseball conspiracy theory
James Harden finally stepped up
When the Sixers acquired James Harden in February, they hoped he would have plenty of games like the one he did last night against the Heat.
Philadelphia was doing just fine in the first half of the season with Joel Embiid leading a one-man show in the absence of I’m Simmons but adding Harden was intended to give the team another player capable of taking over a game. That didn’t really come to fruition before last night, though. Harden hadn’t scored more than 22 points in any of the Sixers’ playoff games this year. When Embiid missed the first two games of the series against the Heat, Miami clamped down on Harden defensively and held him to 16 and 20 points as the Sixers fell into an 0–2 hole.
But Harden came through last night in Game 4, scoring 31 points (on 8-of-18 shooting) with nine assists and seven rebounds. He had 16 points in the fourth quarter alone. It was his first 30-point game since he scored 32 against the Bucks on March 29 and his first 30-point playoff game since a 34-point triple double in Game 5 of the Nets’ first-round series against the Celtics last year.
Here’s what Harden had to say after the game:
“We’re getting more confident as the series goes on,” Harden said. “Those first two games [were] to blur. But obviously, having Joel and having our full team, we kind of know what to expect.
“We know where to execute on both ends of the ball. It just makes the job a lot easier. Think about: We’re still a fairly new team. We’re damn near two months. So when we finally catch a rhythm and finally find something that works, Joel goes off for a couple games.
“So we’re finally settling into the series, and we’ve had some great things that have worked tonight and that we can capitalize off in Game 5.”
CP3 and the Suns look lost
The results were similar to the other game of the night, as the Mavs knocked off the Suns to tie that series at two games apiece. But the story of the game was far different. While the Sixers ’win was about the reemergence of a key player, Phoenix’s loss was about the disappearance of a star player. Chris Paul was in foul trouble all game long, picking up his fourth just before halftime, and played only 23 minutes. He fouled out three minutes into the fourth quarter and scored just five points.
As Paul goes, so do the Suns. “Paul is not Phoenix’s best scorer, but he is the maestro of her offense,” Rohan Nadkarni wrote after Game 4. “It’s no coincidence the Suns have struggled when he’s either turned the ball over or hasn’t been on the floor.”
(Paul was also upset following an incident with his family. ESPN’s Dave McMenamin reported that a Dallas fan placed their hands on Paul’s wife and mother. The Mavericks said the fan was ejected.)
And, for you hockey fans out there: While we’re on the topic of a series tied at 2–2, in all four of the NHL games played yesterday, the team trailing 2–1 won to even the series. The playoffs are getting very interesting.
The best of Sports Illustrated
When the Browns traded for Deshaun Watson, it reopened old wounds for survivors of sexual assault, Alex Prewitt writes in today’s Daily Cover story:
That response has been even starker at the local level, where the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center received 106 calls to its own hotline on Saturday and Sunday after the Watson trade, a 152% increase from a typical weekend. This included 69 contacts on the day of [Raymond] Brown’s protest, a 138% increase from its average daily total in 2022. Even three weeks later, calls were still nearly 30% higher than they were before the trade. Says Sarah Trimble, the center’s chief external affairs officer: “It was very triggering to survivors in our community.”
Scroll to Continue
Howard Beck weighs in on the unwritten rules of basketball in the wake of Ja Morant’s injury. … Ben Pickman weighed in on the WNBA’s first weekend. … Ryan Tannehill’s comments last week that he was not interested in mentoring Malik Willis rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, but Michael Rosenberg argues that Tannehill is absolutely right. … Saturday’s Kentucky Derby was another example of how horse racing “occasionally interrupts raging controversies to drop romantic stories from the heavens,” Pat Forde writes. … Formula One’s first Miami Grand Prix saw Max Verstappen take first, but not all the drivers were completely satisfied with the condition of the new track, Madeline Coleman reports.
Around the sports world
Nikola Jokić has reportedly won his second consecutive NBA MVP award. … Ja Morant is “likely” to miss tonight’s Game 4 against the Grizzlies, according to coach Taylor Jenkins. … The Kings are reportedly hiring current Warriors assistant and former Cavaliers head coach Mike Brown as their new coach. … Mets hitting coach Eric Chavez has a conspiracy theory that MLB is using different baseballs in nationally televised games. … WNBA guard Diamond DeShields revealed that she nearly retired before winning a championship with the Sky in 2021 after undergoing surgery to remove a tumor near her spine.
The top five …
… Things I saw yesterday:
5. This photo of Tony Ferguson taking a kick to the face at UFC 276
4. Anthony Rizzo’s impressive recovery after a ground ball bounced off first base
3. An Oregon State base runner scoring from second on a sacrifice fly
2. This nearly indescribable sequence in the Kings-Oilers game
On this day in 1987, who became the first player in MLB history to hit home runs from both sides of the plate in consecutive games?
- Chili Davis
- Bobby Bonilla
- Ruben Sierra
- Eddie Murray
Friday’s SIQ: Who made the final out of Dallas Braden’s perfect game on May 9 (Mother’s Day), 2010?
Answer: Gabe Kapler. He hit a routine grounder to Oakland shortstop Cliff Pennington, who fielded it cleanly and made the throw to first for the out.
Braden lost his mother to cancer when he was in high school and was then raised by his grandmother, Peggy Lindsey, who was in attendance in Oakland for the game. He revealed in 2020 that he had been hungover when he took the mound after drinking the night before while thinking about the loss of his mother.
“There are things you don’t do [before a start]”He told the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Susan Slusser. “Partaking in libations or adult beverages, that was something I never did before a day game. The night before Mother’s Day, though, I did. We were getting after it a little bit. ”
“Until that day, I had never treated a start or the day before a start the way I did that day,” Braden added. “It’s not like I was telling myself, ‘Let’s get crushed, and tomorrow will be awesome.’ It was more like, ‘Let’s just forget about tomorrow.’ “
Braden threw another complete game shutout later that season (a four-hit outing on Aug. 28), but his career unraveled quickly. He made three starts in 2011 before injuring his shoulder. After having multiple surgeries to address the injury, Braden retired without pitching another game.
From the Vault: May 9, 2005
The Pistons teams of the mid-2000s are among my favorite NBA squads ever. Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Rasheed Wallace and Ben Wallace were a joy to watch, combining elite athleticism with unmatched tenacity. Their defense led them to a championship in ’04 and they were looking to run it back in ’05.
Four-time Defensive Player of the Year Ben Wallace was the key to their success, but as Jack McCallum wrote in his cover story, all the best playoff teams had a defensive stopper (a “disrupter”) who could clamp down on the other team’s star:
“Something changes when the best phrase of seven is in the air. The final six weeks of the regular season are — except for a stray team or two trying to grab an eighth seed — a sleepwalk to the finish line. But when the playoffs start, feet get lighter, elbows sharper, shoulders more forcefully placed. The in-the-paint bangers, loose-ball retrievers, back-screen setters and pick-and-roll thwarters make their presence felt. ”
The Spurs had their own disrupter that year — Bruce Bowen — and San Antonio, which allowed the fewest points per game in the regular season, advanced to face Detroit in the Finals. That series featured some ugly scores, including Game 1’s 84–69 finish. But in Game 7, the Spurs denied the Pistons a chance at repeating, winning 81–74. You won’t see games like those this year in an NBA dominated by the three-point shot.
Check out more of SI ‘s archives and historical images at vault.si.com.
Sports Illustrated may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website.