Good morning, I’m Dan Gartland. Can’t wait for more basketball after the season tonight.
If you’re reading this on SI.com, you can sign up to receive this free newsletter in your inbox every weekday at SI.com/newsletters.
Three guys who stole the show
The first weekend of the NBA playoffs is in the books, and the story of the series openers was all great individual performances. The Warriors’ Jordan Poole lost 30 points in his postseason debut on Saturday, the same day the Sixers’ Tyrese Maxey broke out for 38 and Ja Morant (32 points) and Anthony Edwards (36) dueled in the Timberwolves’ upset win. on the Grizzlies.
Yesterday’s games were no different. Let’s take a look at three players who stood out.
Duncan Robinson: 27 points on 9-for-10 shooting (8-for-9 of three)
We’ll start with the most unlikely breakout star of the day. The Heat made quick work of the Hawks in the first game of their series, knocking out Trae Young completely (eight points on 1-on-12 shooting), but it wasn’t Jimmy Butler who pointed the way to Miami. Robinson got off the couch and couldn’t miss.
Robinson became the 11th player in NBA history to score at least 27 points while shooting at least 90% from the floor and the first player to do so while attempting even one three-pointer. (Other players on the list include Dikembe Mutombo, Yao Ming and David Robinson.)
It was a major breakthrough for Robinson, who was removed from the starting line-up late last month after a disappointing run of games (including a 31-minute goalless appearance against the Nets on March 3).
“Duncan needed that,” veteran Kyle Lowry said after the game. “For us, we need that as a team. We are happy for him and we have to keep building on it. For [Duncan], just keep shooting the ball as it was. We just need him to shoot the ball and shoot the ball with the confidence that he did tonight because he shot the ball extremely confident tonight. Every shot he took looked good.”
Chris Paul: 30 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds
CP3 turned back the clock in the Suns’ win over the Pelicans, registering his first game of 30 points and 10 assists since 2018. At 36 years and 346 days old, he is the oldest player ever to have those numbers in a playoff game. played .
Paul took over in the fourth quarter as the Pelicans attempted a comeback. He scored 19 of Phoenix’ 31 points in the final period and assisted on two more baskets.
“That man is a real competitor and a real winner,” Devin Booker said after the match. “If he wants it that much, you can tell by his demeanor and his gait, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone. He was made for these moments.”
Kyrie Irving: 39 points, six rebounds, five assists, multiple middle fingers
The opening game of the Nets-Celtics series lived up to the reckoning. It was a back and forth game that ended on Jayson Tatum’s layup at the buzzer (the first buzzer knocker in Boston home game history† Tatum was fantastic, leading the Celtics by 31 points (one of four Boston players to score at least 20), but it was Irving who stood out.
He made sure Boston’s best defense looked foot-packed as he fired 39 points, showing what the Nets were missing all year when Irving was ineligible to play in home games. But as spectacular as he was, Brooklyn fell just short.
Scroll to continue
Kyrie enjoyed playing the part of the villain in the town he once called home. He is likely to be fined after fingering Boston fans at least once. Video also surfaced of a fan saying “Kyrie, you suck” to Irving as he walked to the locker room during halftime, which irving replied:“Suck my d—, b—-.”
“I have the same energy for them,” Irving said of his interactions with the hostile mob. “And it’s not every fan; I don’t want to attack every fan, every Boston fan. When people start yelling “p—-” or “b—-” and “f— you” and all these things, [there’s] just as much as you can take.”
The best of Illustrated Sports
Continuing with the NBA playoff theme, today’s Daily Cover, by Chris Herring, talks about how the Raptors’ height makes them a force to be reckoned with:
“The Raptors’ arm lengths make routine passes nearly impossible for opponents. They bounce back more passes than any NBA team and force turnovers at the fastest pace in the league. It’s a big part of the reason that opponents take longer to find shot attempts against Toronto than almost anyone else, according to data site Inpredictable. At some level, this long-limbed team makes archers and passers-by think more than they’d like from one game to another.”
Kyrie Irving had his way with the top-ranked Celtics defense, but Boston was shut down when it mattered most, Chris Mannix writes. … Michael Pina wrote about the fascinating chess match at the center of the Nuggets-Warriors series: Draymond Green vs. Nikola Jokić. … Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final was the latest installment in the growing rivalry between Liverpool and Manchester City, writes Jonathan Wilson.
Around the sports world
Japanese phenom Roki Sasaki nearly threw perfect games back-to-back, but was pulled yesterday after eight perfect innings and 102 pitches. … Longtime Blue Jays announcer Buck Martinez steps aside after being diagnosed with cancer. … Barcelona fans are planning a protest later in the day after more than 30,000 fans of German club Eintracht Frankfurt were able to attend the Europa League game at Camp Nou last week. … Yankees pitcher Nestor Cortes threw a rare clean inning against the Orioles yesterday, but catcher Kyle Higashioka threw the ball into the stands. (Gerrit Cole got it back.) … Red rookie Hunter Greene threw 39 pitches over 100 mph in his start against the Dodgers on Saturday, the most since pitch-tracking began in 2008.
The top five…
… NBA plays from yesterday:
5. Javale McGee’s impressive block on Naji Marshall
4. Jaylen Brown’s chase block on Kevin Durant
3. Giannis throws it away from the board to itself
2. Marcus Smart steals the inbound pass and goes for the dunk
1. Jayson Tatum’s game winner at the buzzer
The longest game in professional baseball history – between the Pawtucket Red Sox and Rochester Red Wings – started on this day in 1981. How many innings did they play before the game was interrupted?
Friday’s SIQ: Who was the last black player to wear Jackie Robinson’s No. 42?
Answer: Mo Vaughn. He was also the penultimate player to wear number 42, behind Mariano Rivera.
Vaughn requested the number when he was called up to the majors by the Red Sox in 1991, recalling what his coach at Seton Hall, Nick Bowness, had told him years earlier. Here’s what Vaughn did: New York Post in 2002, before his first season with the Mets:
†[Bowness] took me aside and said that if I ever had the chance to wear his number, I would,” said Vaughn. “He told me to look up the information about [Robinson] and find out what kind of person he was. I looked up the information and found that there was a great man behind the song, representing everything about life. Forget baseball.
“He integrated society because he was just playing baseball,” Vaughn continued. “I’ve always felt that what he was going through gave every minority athlete in every sport the chance to play. Michael Jordan wouldn’t be Michael Jordan. Tiger Woods wouldn’t be Tiger Woods. All the great black athletes…got the chance to do what they do because [Robinson] got it all done.”
Vaughn told MLB.com last year that he didn’t wear Robinson’s number in the minors because the jersey numbers didn’t go that high. When he was called up to the major leagues, he initially thought he would wear number 44, before remembering what Bowness had said.
Vaughn’s father, Leroy, was a pioneer in his own right. Leroy played as a quarterback at Virginia Union University and caught the attention of NFL scouts. In 1955, he was signed by his native Baltimore Colts, becoming the first black player to be listed as a quarterback on an NFL roster since Fritz Pollard in the 1920s. Leroy did not appear in any game for the Colts in his one year with the team and went into the Army. He and his wife, Shirley, settled in Norwalk, Conn., where Leroy became an assistant principal and soccer coach at Brien McMahon High School.
Leroy instilled a sense of civic responsibility in his and Shirley’s three children.
“The reflection of Leroy Vaughn that his son carries most vividly with him is of Christmas morning,” the… Boston Globe‘s Peter Gammons wrote in 1992 (as quoted in Vaughn’s SABR biography). “Every year we went with our parents to give out gifts and visit the homeless,” said Vaughn. Giving back to the community was sewn into the fabric of Vaughn’s upbringing: ‘It was something that was an important part of their Christmas tradition, and we, the kids, were always a part of it.’”
From the vault: April 18, 1960
The cover story of the April 18, 1960 issue of Illustrated Sports highlights the stark contrast between women’s sport today and before the passage of Title IX in ’72.
At the 1956 Summer Olympics, 15-year-old American Carin Cone won the silver medal in the 100-meter backstroke. She and England’s Judy Grinham finished with identical times of 1:12.9, a new world record, but in the absence of a repeat system, the decision on the winner was left to a jury. According to Kenneth Rudeen’s article, Cone would “almost certainly have retired from world-class competition” had she won the gold, but instead decided to train for the ’60 Games in Rome.
She enrolled at the University of Houston because, Rudeen wrote, coach Phill Hansel was “one of the few top coaches who took female swimmers seriously.” However, Houston did not take women’s swimming seriously and abruptly canceled plans to sponsor a team before the end of Cone’s freshman semester in 1958.
Most swimmers transferred to other schools. Cone stayed in Houston to continue training under Hansel, but not being part of a varsity program made things difficult. Hansell had to search all over the Houston metro area for pools where Cone and her training partners Brenda Dietz and Eileen Murphy could swim.
In the winter, they swam in a 20-yard outdoor pool (less than half the size of an Olympic-sized pool) at a local swimming club. The water was heated, but it didn’t help much.
“It wasn’t too bad, except at the end when I had to swim the backstroke,” Cone wrote in her journal. “My nose froze from one end to the other; it would just about all thaw during the turns. Then it would freeze again. Phill stood bravely at the edge of the pool, holding our beach towels for us.”
By February 1960, Hansell had arranged a few indoor swimming pools for the women to exercise. In the morning, they would swim for 90 minutes at a high school in the Pasadena suburb of Houston. In the afternoon they had reserved 90 minutes at a high school in Bellaire, on the other side of town. In between they went to class.
Cone won two gold medals at the Pan American Games in the summer of 1959 (in the 100m backstroke and as part of the 4x100m medley relay team), but did not qualify for the Rome Olympics.
See more from SI’s archives and historical images at kluis.si.com.