Fernando Tatis Jr moved into the joint lead for the most home runs this season as he led the San Diego Padres to a 4-3 win over the New York Mets in MLB on Thursday.

Tatis returned from a minor injury, described as "tightness around his midsection", to hit his 17th home run of the 2021 season when his long shot to center field was spilled over the fence by Mason Williams to make it 2-0 in the third inning.

Jurickson Profar drove in another in the fourth inning, before Tatis added their fourth run in the fifth inning, fearlessly racing home from third to home base after catcher James McCann's fumble.

Tatis touched the plate in the nick of time as McCann threw to pitcher Taijuan Walker to leave the Padres 4-0 up and despite a late Mets rally, they held on for another win.

The Padres improve to 35-23, while the Mets are 27-22 as they continue their seven-game road trip.

 

Table toppers face off, Meadows empties the bases

Joc Pederson homered into the bay as the National Central leaders, the Chicago Cubs, went down 7-2 to the frontrunners in the National West, the San Francisco Giants.

Leading off for the Cubs, Pederson was spectacularly caught on the fence by Giants center fielder Steven Duggar.

Pederson had more success later when he hit a moon shot out of Oracle Park and into the neighbouring bay for the kayakers to collect.

Brandon Crawford turned the game around for the Giants, finishing with two runs, two hits and four runs batted in (RBI).

Gerrit Cole had a tough day at the office as Austin Meadows starred for the Tampa Bay Rays in a 9-2 win over the New York Yankees.

Meadows emptied the bases at the top of the seventh inning, to finish with two runs, two hits and five RBI. Meadows has now hit 14 home runs this season.

Cole conceded five hits from his five innings before being withdrawn, while Ryan Yarbrough snapped the Rays streak of 731 games without a pitcher throwing a complete game, sending down nine innings with six strikeouts.

There were no Shohei Ohtani heroics as the Los Angeles Angels lost 6-2 to the Seattle Mariners, while the Milwaukee Brewers made it six wins from their past seven with a 7-4 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks.

 

Rangers' horror road stretch

The Texas Rangers allowed 11 runs as their losing streak extended to nine games with an 11-6 defeat to the Colorado Rockies. The Rangers have conceded 55 runs across those nine games, all on the road.

 

White Sox whacking homers

Jake Lamb, Yasmani Grandal and Tim Anderson all homered for the Chicago White Sox in a fine display of hitting in their 4-1 victory over the Detroit Tigers.

 

Thursday's results

Atlanta Braves 5-1 Washington Nationals
Tampa Bay Rays 9-2 New York Yankees
Boston Red Sox 5-1 Houston Astros
Colorado Rockies 11-6 Texas Rangers
Pittsburgh Pirates 5-3 Miami Marlins
Milwaukee Brewers - Arizona Diamondbacks
Kansas City Royals - Minnesota Twins
Chicago White Sox 3-1 Detroit Tigers
Cincinnati Reds 4-2 St Louis Cardinals
Seattle Mariners 6-2 Los Angeles Angels
San Francisco Giants 7-2 Chicago Cubs
San Diego Padres 4-3 New York Mets

 

Cubs at Giants

The San Francisco Giants (35-21) and the Chicago Cubs (32-24) meet again the second game of their compelling six-game series.

Devin Booker put on a show as the Phoenix Suns eliminated LeBron James and NBA champions the Los Angeles Lakers from the playoffs en route to the Western Conference semi-finals.

The sun set on the Lakers' season and their title defence in the opening round after Booker's playoff career-high 47 points and 11 rebounds guided Phoenix to a 113-100 win in Game 6 on Thursday.

Booker's monster double-double – which included eight three-pointers – sealed a 4-2 series victory for the second-seeded Suns in the Western Conference as they moved through to the semi-finals.

Suns All-Star Booker became the first Phoenix player with a 40/10 playoff game since Amar'e Stoudemire in 2010, though he is the first to do it with five-plus threes.

The Lakers welcomed the Suns to Staples Center for the must-win showdown in Los Angeles, where star Anthony Davis had been cleared to return from a groin injury.

According to Stats Perform, the Lakers were 8-2 in home games when facing playoff elimination since 2000 but their hopes were dealt a blow when Davis' comeback lasted just five minutes.

The Suns – who were 8-1 in potential series-clinching games since 2000, with their only loss coming against the Clippers in Game 6 in 2006 – blew away the Lakers with a 36-14 opening quarter on the road.

Phoenix carried a 60-41 advantage into half-time and while James tried to spark a Lakers rally with 29 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and two blocks, it was not enough.

A four-time NBA champion and MVP, it is the first time James has been eliminated in the opening round of the postseason in his illustrious 15-year playoff career.

Next up for the Suns are the Denver Nuggets, who claimed their series 4-2 following a 126-115 victory against the Portland Trail Blazers.

MVP favourite Nikola Jokic fuelled the third-seeded Nuggets with 36 points in Portland, where Michael Porter Jr. had 22 of his 26 points in the opening quarter.

The Nuggets reached the Western Conference semis for the third consecutive season, while Damian Lillard put up 28 points and 13 assists for the Trail Blazers – who led by 14 points in the third quarter but could not hold on.

 

Clippers at Mavericks

Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks can secure a semi-final date with the top-ranked Utah Jazz in the Western Conference by beating the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday. The Mavericks lead the series 3-2.

Amateur Megha Ganne enjoyed a remarkable first round to hold a share of the lead alongside Mel Reid at the U.S. Women's Open on Thursday.

Ganne carded a four-under-par 67, including six birdies, as the 17-year-old earn a share of the lead at the Olympic Club in San Francisco.

With her performance, Ganne became the first amateur to lead the U.S. Women's Open since Jane Park in 2006.

"I think the first time is nerve-racking for anybody and meeting your idols and being on the stage for the first time," Ganne said after her second U.S. Women's Open appearance. "But the second time around, even the practice rounds, I wasn't as nervous. I felt like I could come here and just play my game instead of soaking that all in."

Experienced 33-year-old Englishwoman Reid – who won October's LPGA Classic – had a steady round with five birdies and one bogey.

World number five Brooke Henderson was one of the last to finish her round, holding a share of the lead until a bogey on the 18th to card a three-under 68.

Megan Khang, who finished in fifth at this event last year, is equal second with Henderson and fellow American Angel Yin.

World number one Ko Jin-young is not far off the pace after an opening round one-under, with second-ranked Inbee Park finishing even through 18 holes.

Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis has returned from a groin injury for Game 6 of the Western Conference first-round series against the Phoenix Suns.

Davis was hoping to be available for Thursday's must-win showdown, with reigning NBA champions the Lakers trailing the Suns 3-2 and facing elimination.

A groin injury had sidelined Davis since half-time of Game 4 as the Lakers were routed 115-85 at the hands of the second-seeded Suns in Game 5.

But Davis has been cleared to make his way back into the starting five at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Davis had back-to-back 34-point double-doubles in Games 2 and 3.

The Lakers are 26-15 (63.4) when Davis has played this season and 19-18 (51.4) in the games he has missed (including the play-in and playoff games), according to Stats Perform.

According to Stats Perform, the Suns are 8-1 in potential series-clinching games since 2000, with their only loss coming against the Clippers in Game 6 in 2006, and Phoenix won the next game. Meanwhile, the Lakers are 8-2 in home games when facing playoff elimination since 2000.

Utah Jazz All-Star Mike Conley will be a day-to-day proposition ahead of the NBA Western Conference semi-finals after scans confirmed a hamstring strain.

Conley left the court in the second quarter of the Jazz's 126-110 win over the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 5 of their NBA first-round playoffs series due right hamstring soreness on Wednesday.

Utah sealed the series 4-1 midweek and the top seeds will face either the Los Angeles Clippers or the Dallas Mavericks in the second round.

"This morning an MRI revealed a mild right hamstring strain," the Jazz said in a statement via Twitter on Thursday. "He will be re-evaluated prior to Game 1 of the Western Conference semi-finals."

Conley, 33, has enjoyed a strong season, becoming an All-Star for the first time in his career.

Conley has averaged 17.4 points, 3.8 rebounds and 8.6 assists per game during the 2020-21 season.

He played a key role for the Jazz as a starter in both their Game 2 and Game 3 wins over the Grizzlies with 20 and 27 points respectively.

Kansas City Chiefs star and quarterback Patrick Mahomes believes he is ready to play following toe surgery.

Mahomes underwent surgery after Kansas City's Super LV loss to Tom Brady's Tampa Bay Buccaneers in February.

The Chiefs will open their 2021 NFL campaign against the Cleveland Browns on September 12 and the 2018 MVP feels he is ready to go.

"If there was a game [today], I'd be able to play in it, I think,'' said Mahomes.

"There's still stuff I'm going to have to work through. I have to continue to rehab, continue to keep strengthening that stuff.

"But it's good to be able to get out there earlier than the schedule had me and be able to get some work in.''

Mahomes led the NFL in passing yards per game with 316.0 in 2020, well clear of Deshaun Watson (301.4) in second.

Watson's Houston Texans were the only team in the league to produce more passing plays of 20 yards or more (70 to 69) and more touchdown throws of at least 20 yards (16 to 15).

The Chiefs ranked 12th in rushing yards per attempt (4.46), but were in the top 10 for rushes of 10 yards or more with 57.

Mahomes has previously said he wants the Chiefs to become the first team in history to finish a season 20-0 following the NFL's expanded regular-season schedule.

"I believe the question I was asked is, what record did I want to break?'' Mahomes said. "To me, records don't mean anything if you're not winning that last game at the end of the season.

"It's about going in every single week with the mindset that we're trying to win, we're going to win. And at the end of the day whatever the record is, if it's 20-0 or wherever it is, you win that last game of the season and you're going to be happy with whatever happened earlier in the season.

"People get all hyped up about saying 20-0 because you have to take it one week at a time, but at the end of the day you want to continue to win every single week. I'm not going into the season hoping I lose any games."

Collin Morikawa carded a six-under-par 66 to claim a one-stroke lead before bad weather halted the opening round of the Memorial Tournament.

Thunderstorms forced a weather-hit day one to be suspended at Muirfield Village, where Morikawa managed to set the early pace before play was stopped on Thursday.

Morikawa – last year's US PGA Championship winner – was almost flawless in Dublin, Ohio after holing seven birdies and just one bogey.

A run of three consecutive birdies and four in five to start his back nine sent Morikawa to the top of the leaderboard, just ahead of fellow American Adam Long.

"It was definitely the rain," Morikawa said. "The greens were soft enough and they're receptive. But you have to hit the fairway. Out here, wet rough, it's not going to help when the rough is pretty long.

Bo Hoag, Nick Taylor, Xander Schauffele and Rafa Cabrera Bello also completed their rounds and ended the day two strokes off the pace, while defending champion Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler are among a group a shot further back at three under.

Reigning U.S. Open champion and 2018 Memorial Tournament winner Bryson DeChambeau – gearing up for his upcoming title defence at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego this month – was two under through three holes at the time of the suspension.

Former world number one Jordan Spieth also completed three holes – one under – when play was called off, while Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama, who won the PGA Tour event in 2014, did complete his round following a one-over-par 73.

Four-time major champion Rory McIlroy will return to finish his round early on Friday after going one over through two holes in wet conditions.

Few teams have ever entered the NBA playoffs with more uncertainty and intrigue than the 2020-21 Brooklyn Nets.

On the surface, it's almost unfathomable to consider a team that finished just one game back of the conference's best record could have so many questions marks, but when their three star players appeared in just eight games together in the regular season – and only one (ONE!) contest since the middle of February – it's not difficult to see why there were so many unknowns.

During the regular season, the Nets' power trio of Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving appeared on the court together for just over three and a half hours. By comparison, the last 'Big three' Durant was a part of – the 2018-19 Golden State Warriors – he, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson played over 23 hours together during the regular season. The Warriors' threesome reached the 200-minute mark before the calendar flipped to November, so the Durant-Harden-Irving trio are essentially in early season mode – and again, they only appeared in one game together over the season's final two months.

So with all eyes on Brooklyn in their first-round playoff series against the Boston Celtics, it took all of one game for the trio to find their chemistry.

The Nets got past a Celtics team playing without their second-leading scorer in Jaylen Brown in the playoff opener, though it wasn't exactly an offensive showcase. Brooklyn led by just three points five minutes into the fourth quarter before Durant, Harden and Irving scored 19 of the team's final 22 points to lead the Nets to a 104-93 win.

After passing their first test, the offense aced their last four in dispatching the Celtics in five games, with Boston needing an exceptional 50-point performance from Jayson Tatum in Game 3 to avoid being swept.

In the final four games of the series, the Nets averaged 143.3 points per 100 possessions when Durant, Irving and Harden were together on the court – a total of 105 minutes, 56 seconds. As a team, Brooklyn shot 56.8 per cent from the field and 52.1 from three-point range to go with an eFG percentage of 67.2 and a 28.7 assist rate when the three played together.

This came after their Game 1 tuneup as Brooklyn had an offensive rating of 113.4 in the 23 minutes 48 seconds the three were together on the court, shot 48.7 per cent from the floor, made five of 20 three-point attempts, had a 55.1 eFG percentage and 19.6 assist rate.

The offense has been playing on another level since then, averaging 128.3 points and a coveted 50-40-90 shooting percentage slash line – 51.6 per cent from the field, 47.4 from three-point range and 91.7 on free throws.

They are the first team since the advent of the three-pointer in the 1979-80 season to score at least 115 points, hit at least 15 3-point shots and make at least 20 free throws in four straight games. That's including the regular season, not just four straight games in a single playoff series or four games in a row in a single postseason – all games.

The Nets held an offensive clinic in a 141-126 Game 4 win on Sunday, shooting 57.8 per cent while making 17 of 27 shots from beyond the arc (59.3 per cent) and 29 of 30 foul shots (96.7). In the process, Durant scored 42 and made all 11 of his free throw attempts while Irving added 39 and converted all 11 of his foul shots, making them the first pair of team-mates in NBA history to score 35 or more points while going 10 of 10 or better from the free-throw line in a game – regular or postseason.

All Harden did in that one was dish out 18 assists – his most for any game, regular or postseason – and score 23 points on 8-of-12 shooting.

In the five games against Boston, Durant averaged 32.6 points, Harden 27.8 and Irving 24.8. Their combined average of 85.2 points is the most by any trio in any playoff series all-time – one more than Elgin Baylor, Jerry West and Rudy LaRusso averaged for the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1962 Western Division Finals.

With Durant, Harden and Irving together, Brooklyn is able to create scoring opportunities by spacing the floor, which is paying dividends for Harden.

In the last four playoff games, Harden made 51.5 per cent of the jump shots (17 of 33) he took from 15 feet or more from the hoop – the fifth highest rate in the league among the 35 players with a minimum of 25 such shots since May 25. He made just 37.1 per cent of such shots during the regular season to rank 125th out of 192 players with a minimum of 200 attempts..

The jump shot, meanwhile, has long been a friend of Durant, and he has been knocking down his jumpers at an astounding clip since Game 1.

Among those with a minimum of 25 jump shots attempted from 15 feet or more from the hoop since May 25, Durant leads all shooters by connecting on 61.4 per cent of his shots (27 of 44). His 6.8 made jump shots from 15 or more feet out are only just behind the Dallas Mavericks' Luka Doncic at 7.0 for tops in the league since May 25. This came after Durant shot 46.9 per cent on these same jumpers and averaged 4.1 makes per game during the regular season.

With Harden proving to be a more efficient scorer away from the basket, defences now must respect his jump shot. The problem is, he's still as dangerous as ever to drive and either dish it out – his 17 assists to Durant are the second most by any one player to a team-mate this postseason behind Denver Nuggets guard Facundo Campazzo's 18 assists to Nickola Jokic – or finish at the rim.

Harden is connecting on 73.7 per cent of his 19 layup attempts this postseason after converting 58.4 per cent of them in the regular season. Like Harden, Irving is also successfully finishing at the hoop, making 60.9 per cent of his 23 layup attempts.

Brooklyn's Big three has quickly established a cohesiveness on the court and looks every bit of the offensive juggernaut many envisioned was possible when the team acquired Harden back in January.

One criticism against the Nets all season has been their defense – or lack thereof. The counterpoint to that is that it doesn't matter how many points you give up as long as you score more. And with Durant, Harden, Irving and the Brooklyn offense firing on all cylinders, the Nets certainly have the capability to pile up more points than anyone.

This theory will be put to the test Saturday when Brooklyn open their Eastern Conference semi-final series against the Milwaukee Bucks – the only team to outscore the Nets in the regular season with a 120.1 scoring average.

Roger Federer took "a lot of confidence" from his four-set win over Marin Cilic as he produced his best display of the year at the French Open.

The 39-year-old beat the 2014 US Open champion 6-2 2-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 on Court Philippe-Chatrier on Thursday, building on his first-round defeat of Denis Istomin with an impressive performance.

Federer looked in command in the first set but lost rhythm in the second amid sharpened play from Cilic and a strange confrontation with the umpire after a time violation warning while receiving serve.

The match was on a knife-edge heading into the third-set tie-break, but Federer was clinical when it mattered, serving out the set with an ace before assuming control again in the fourth.

"[It was a] very good match for me, I thought," said Federer, who will face Dominik Koepfer in round three. "A bit of up-and-downs in the second and third sets.

"The good thing, I feel like I come out of a match like this and I know why it was up and down, and then that I was able to attain a solid level once he did break back in the third set and things were looking dangerous for me.

"That I was able to step up a gear, stay with him, and then pull away from him, I think that gives me a lot of confidence."

DJOKOVIC AND NADAL IN CRUISE CONTROL

World number one Novak Djokovic is another who is finding his feet on the Paris dirt, the 2016 champion beating clay specialist Pablo Cuevas 6-3 6-2 6-4.

Djokovic, who will face Ricardas Berankis next after his win over James Duckworth, struck 31 winners as he moved to 22-3 for the year with his 350th grand slam match win.

"I'm playing well, feeling great. I'm ready to go deep in this tournament," he said. "Hopefully, that's going to be the case."

Defending champion Rafael Nadal was in imperious form in the late match, dispatching Richard Gasquet 6-0 7-5 6-2.

Nadal, who turned 35 on Thursday, won the opening seven games in under half an hour in a largely one-sided contest as he improved to 17-0 against the Frenchman, the most one-sided head-to-head of his career.

The Spaniard, who has not even dropped a set to Gasquet since 2008, said of winning once again in three: "I honestly don't complain at all! The main thing for me is to feel myself play well.

"In theory, it's better to save some energy, but at the same time, sometimes when you are pushed at the beginning of a tournament, you went through some tough moments, that helps a lot for the next rounds.

"It happened for me in Rome like this. I had some tough challenges at the beginning of the tournament, and then you get to the quarters, semis and final and you know you're going to suffer and you're more ready for the situation."

MONFLIS OUT, KWON EYEING SLICE OF HISTORY

Cameron Norrie continued the British interest in the French capital, recovering from a set down to defeat Lloyd Harris and reach round three for the first time, and will face Nadal next.

In a mixed day for the seeded players, Diego Schwartzman and Matteo Berrettini advanced in straight sets while Jannik Sinner beat compatriot Gianluca Mager 6-1 7-5 3-6 6-3.

However, Australian Open semi-finalist Aslan Karatsev was beaten in four sets by veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber, while 21st seed Alex De Minaur lost in four sets to Marco Cecchinato.

There was also disappointment for home favourite Gael Monfils. The 14th seed was beaten 6-0 2-6 6-4 6-3 by Mikael Ymer, the world number 105.

However, Thursday saw a moment to remember for Kwon Soon-woo, who reached round three of a major for the first time with a straight-sets victory over Andreas Seppi. He is bidding to become the first South Korean player to get to round four at Roland Garros.

There were impressive wins as well for teenagers Lorenzo Musetti and Carlos Alcaraz Garfica, who beat Nikoloz Basilashvili in straight sets to secure a meeting with Jan-Lennard Struff.

Rafael Nadal stormed into the third round of the French Open with a straight-sets defeat of Richard Gasquet under the floodlights in Paris.

Gasquet, the final French player in either the men's or women's draws, offered some resistance after a terrible start but succumbed 6-0 7-5 6-2 in two hours and 14 minutes.

Nadal has now beaten Gasquet in all 17 of their meetings on Tour, with the Frenchman falling to a Spaniard for the second tournament running, having lost 6-1 6-1 to Jaume Munar in Parma last month.

The 20-time major singles champion turned 35 on Thursday and seemed eager to go and enjoy what remained of his birthday as he reeled off the first seven games in a row inside half an hour.

Gasquet at last got on the board after a couple of strangely errant forehands from the defending champion, who broke Gasquet again at the third time of asking as he moved 4-1 ahead in the second set.

Gasquet might have dropped to 53 in the rankings, but he offered glimpses of the form that saw him climb as high as seven in the world back in 2008, the one-handed backhand and drop-shot game causing Nadal some problems.

There was a shock when he broke back at 4-5 behind in the second set as Nadal looped another forehand long, but Nadal piled on the pressure at 6-5 and took a 2-0 lead when Gasquet slapped a forehand into the bottom of the net.

A sublime volley and a rasping passing shot saw Gasquet fend off two more break points at 1-2 in the third, but his resistance was finally broken in a mammoth sixth game.

Gasquet's serve deserted him at the wrong moment as he handed Nadal two match points, the second of which was taken via another forehand into the net.

Data Slam: Nadal keeps Gasquet at arm's length

Nadal dropped just seven of 45 points behind his first serve, which averaged speeds of 180km/h, leaving Gasquet with few opportunities to knock the Spaniard off his game.

Such authority meant Gasquet had little chance of snapping his losing streak against Nadal, whose 17 wins from 17 meetings is a career record.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Nadal – 36/23
Gasquet – 20/37

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Nadal – 3/3
Gasquet – 2/5

BREAK POINTS WON
Nadal – 7/16
Gasquet – 1/4

Few teams have ever entered the NBA playoffs with more uncertainty and intrigue than the 2020-21 Brooklyn Nets.

On the surface, it's almost unfathomable to consider a team that finished just one game back of the conference's best record could have so many questions marks, but when its three star players appeared in just eight games together in the regular season – and only one (ONE!) contest since the middle of February – it's not difficult to see why there were so many unknowns.

During the regular season, the Nets' power trio of Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving appeared on the court together for just over three and a half hours. By comparison, the last 'Big 3' Durant was a part of – the 2018-19 Golden State Warriors – he, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson played over 23 hours together during the regular season. The Warriors' threesome reached the 200-minute mark before the calendar flipped to November, so the Durant-Harden-Irving trio are essentially in early season mode – and again, they only appeared in one game together over the season's final two months.

So with all eyes on Brooklyn in its first-round playoff series against the Boston Celtics, it took all of one game for the trio to find their chemistry.

The Nets got past a Celtics team playing without its second-leading scorer in Jaylen Brown in the playoff opener, though it wasn't exactly an offensive showcase. Brooklyn led by just three points five minutes into the fourth quarter before Durant, Harden and Irving scored 19 of the team's final 22 points to lead the Nets to a 104-93 win.

After passing their first test, the offense aced its last four in dispatching the Celtics in five games, with Boston needing an exceptional 50-point performance from Jayson Tatum in Game 3 to avoid being swept.

In the final four games of the series, the Nets averaged 143.3 points per 100 possessions when Durant, Irving and Harden were together on the court – a total of 105 minutes, 56 seconds. As a team, Brooklyn shot 56.8 per cent from the field and 52.1 from 3-point range to go with an eFG percentage of 67.2 and a 28.7 assist rate when the three played together.

This came after their Game 1 tuneup as Brooklyn had an offensive rating of 113.4 in the 23 minutes 48 seconds the three were together on the court, shot 48.7 per cent from the floor, made five of 20 3-point attempts, had a 55.1 eFG percentage and 19.6 assist rate.

The offense has been playing on another level since then, averaging 128.3 points and a coveted 50-40-90 shooting percentage slash line – 51.6 per cent from the field, 47.4 from 3-point range and 91.7 on free throws.

They are the first team since the advent of the 3-pointer in the 1979-80 season to score at least 115 points, hit at least 15 3-point shots and make at least 20 free throws in four straight games. That's including the regular season, not just four straight games in a single playoff series or four games in a row in a single postseason – all games.

The Nets held an offensive clinic in a 141-126 Game 4 win on Sunday, shooting 57.8 per cent while making 17 of 27 shots from beyond the arc (59.3 per cent) and 29 of 30 foul shots (96.7). In the process, Durant scored 42 and made all 11 of his free throw attempts while Irving added 39 and converted all 11 of his foul shots, making them the first pair of team-mates in NBA history to score 35 or more points while going 10 of 10 or better from the free-throw line in a game – regular or postseason.

All Harden did in that one was dish out 18 assists – his most for any game, regular or postseason – and score 23 points on 8-of-12 shooting.

In the five games against Boston, Durant averaged 32.6 points, Harden 27.8 and Irving 24.8. Their combined average of 85.2 points is the most by any trio in any playoff series all-time – one more than Elgin Baylor, Jerry West and Rudy LaRusso averaged for the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1962 Western Division Finals.

With Durant, Harden and Irving together, Brooklyn is able to create scoring opportunities by spacing the floor, which is paying dividends for Harden.

In the last four playoff games, Harden made 51.5 per cent of the jump shots (17 of 33) he took from 15 feet or more from the hoop – the fifth highest rate in the league among the 35 players with a minimum of 25 such shots since May 25. He made just 37.1 per cent of such shots during the regular season to rank 125th out of 192 players with a minimum of 200 attempts..

The jump shot, meanwhile, has long been a friend of Durant, and he has been knocking down his jumpers at an astounding clip since Game 1.

Among those with a minimum of 25 jump shots attempted from 15 feet or more from the hoop since May 25, Durant leads all shooters by connecting on 61.4 per cent of his shots (27 of 44). His 6.8 made jump shots from 15 or more feet out are only just behind the Dallas Mavericks' Luka Doncic at 7.0 for tops in the league since May 25. This came after Durant shot 46.9 per cent on these same jumpers and averaged 4.1 makes per game during the regular season.

With Harden proving to be a more efficient scorer away from the basket, defences now must respect his jump shot. The problem is, he's still as dangerous as ever to drive and either dish it out – his 17 assists to Durant are the second most by any one player to a team-mate this postseason behind Denver Nuggets guard Facundo Campazzo's 18 assists to Nickola Jokic – or finish at the rim.

Harden is connecting on 73.7 per cent of his 19 layup attempts this postseason after converting 58.4 per cent of them in the regular season. Like Harden, Irving is also successfully finishing at the hoop, making 60.9 per cent of his 23 layup attempts.

Brooklyn's Big 3 has quickly established a cohesiveness on the court and looks every bit of the offensive juggernaut many envisioned was possible when the team acquired Harden back in January.

One criticism against the Nets all season has been their defense – or lack thereof. The counterpoint to that is that it doesn't matter how many points you give up as long as you score more. And with Durant, Harden, Irving and the Brooklyn offense firing on all cylinders, the Nets certainly have the capability to pile up more points than anyone.

This theory will be put to the test Saturday when Brooklyn opens its Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Milwaukee Bucks – the only team to outscore the Nets in the regular season with a 120.1 scoring average.

Ashleigh Barty described her retirement from Thursday's second-round clash against Magda Linette at the French Open as "heartbreaking". 

Top seed Barty required medical attention during her first-round win over Bernarda Pera two days earlier, with a hip injury the cause for concern.

The 25-year-old – back at Roland Garros for the first time since winning her maiden grand slam title in Paris in 2019 – vowed to "play through the pain barrier", yet the injury prevented her from continuing when 1-6 2-2 down against her Polish opponent, who will face Ons Jabeur in the next round. 

The Australian's retirement throws the draw wide open, with both of the top seeds now out after Naomi Osaka decided to withdraw amid her disagreement with tournament organisers.

Barty's clay-court season ended with a title in Stuttgart, a runner-up finish in Madrid and an appearance in the quarter-finals in Rome, and she could scarcely hide her disappointment at the way things ended for her in the French capital. 

"It's heartbreaking," she told a media conference. "I mean, we have had such a brilliant clay-court season, and to get a little bit unlucky with timing and have something acute happen over the weekend and just kind of run out of time against the clock is disappointing. 

"It won't take away the brilliant three months that we have had, as much as it hurts right now.

"We did everything, absolutely everything we could to give myself a chance. It was a small miracle that we were able to get on court for that first round.

"I just tried to give myself a chance and see how it felt. Obviously practicing, we've had our restrictions and essentially tried to stay as fresh as possible and not aggravate it in any way, but in a match that's unavoidable at times.

"It got worse today and it was becoming at the stage where it was unsafe. As hard as it is, it had to be done. Right from the first game, I was battling the pain, and it just became too severe."

SVITOLINA CRUISES THROUGH, PLISKOVA DUMPED OUT

Fifth seed Elina Svitolina booked a third-round meeting with Barbora Krejcikova after seeing off Ann Li 6-0 6-4. 

Svitolina landed 74 per cent of her first serves and struck 10 winners to cruise past the American in the opening set. 

Li bounced back in the second, roaring into a 4-1 lead, but Svitolina clawed her way back to ensure she reached at least the third round in seven of her nine appearances at Roland Garros. 

Svitolina, who overturned a 2-5 deficit in the second set to beat Oceane Babel in the first round, said: "In the end, what I'm really happy with is the way that I was down in both matches in the second set and found a way. 

"I found a good level and didn't give up on the second set. That was a really good point for me, and I was really playing composed in both matches. It was two different players, but I was really happy that I could win in two sets in both matches."

Up next is Krejcikova, who overcame Ekaterina Alexandrova 6-2 6-3.

There is no place in the third round for ninth seed Karolina Pliskova, who was soundly beaten 7-5 6-1 by Sloane Stephens, while number 13 seed Jennifer Brady battled past Fiona Ferro 6-1 1-6 6-4. 

KENIN WINS BATTLE OF THE AMERICANS

Fourth seed Sofia Kenin defeated fellow American Hailey Baptiste, a qualifier who won four matches in Paris on her French Open debut, 7-5 6-3. 

Kenin will now face another compatriot in 28th seed Jessica Pegula, who beat Tereza Martincova 6-3 6-3.

Elsewhere, defending champion Iga Swiatek thumped Rebecca Peterson 6-1 6-1, Coco Gauff got the better of Wang Qiang 6-3 7-6 (7-1), and Elise Mertens edged out Zarina Diyas 6-4 2-6 6-4.

Roger Federer produced his best display of the year to defeat Marin Cilic in four sets in the second round of the French Open.

The 20-time grand slam singles champion overcame frustrations with the umpire and the powerful resilience of his opponent to win 6-2 2-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 on Thursday.

The Swiss great holds an 11-1 lead in their head-to-head record, that one defeat coming back in the US Open semi-finals in 2014 when Cilic went on to lift the trophy, and it seemed as though Federer had their latest contest on his racquet early on.

He raced into a 5-1 lead in the first set before closing it out in just 31 minutes, the crowd left stunned when the eighth seed stretched up to produce a remarkable drop-shot return winner.

Matters became trickier in the second set as Cilic went 3-0 ahead and only some precise serve-and-forehand work from Federer prevented the double break.

A curious moment occurred with Cilic leading 3-1 when Federer was issued a time violation when receiving serve at deuce. A bemused Federer spoke at length with the umpire before calling to Cilic, "Am I playing too slow?".

Although far from descending into a shouting match, the incident seemed to throw off Federer, who gifted the set to Cilic with two forehand errors and looked unsettled until he refocused with a ripped backhand winner in the opening game of the third.

Cilic forced the tie-break after Federer had spurned an easy chance for a double break, but a double fault from the world number 47 handed the initiative to his rival, who by this time looked imperious on serve and in control from the baseline.

An ace on his first set point wrapped up the breaker and another Cilic double fault saw him fall a break behind in the fourth. This time, Federer did not allow a sniff of a comeback.

Data Slam: Federer back in the groove with clinical display

More accustomed to facing Cilic in the later stages of majors – he has beaten the Croatian in Wimbledon and Australian Open finals – Federer nonetheless needed to find something close to his best tennis after allowing early control to slip away in only his fourth match since returning after knee surgery.

The 39-year-old fired down 16 aces to one double fault and 47 winners to just 27 unforced errors. As Cilic said before the contest: "No matter the age, Roger has the formula."

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Cilic – 43/44
Federer – 47/27

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Cilic – 12/6
Federer – 16/1

BREAK POINTS WON
Cilic – 3/8
Federer – 5/16

Novak Djokovic booked a place in the last 32 of the French Open with a straight-sets victory over Uruguayan veteran Pablo Cuevas.

The top seed, seeking just a second triumph at Roland Garros, followed up his emphatic win against Tennys Sandgren in round one with a slightly tougher 6-3 6-2 6-4 triumph against Cuevas.

World number one Djokovic had 31 winners to 22 unforced errors and will now face James Duckworth – who beat Ricardas Berankis earlier on Thursday – in the next round.

Djokovic initially took some time to get going and lost his serve in just the third game, before instantly hitting back in the fourth.

The 18-time grand slam winner did not look back from that point, serving up some impressive tennis on the clay and breaking Cuevas again in the eighth game to take a one-set lead.

Cuevas has reached the third round in Paris on four occasions, but hopes of doing so again this year were effectively put to bed in a blistering second set from Djokovic, who was successful with all 11 of his first serves to close in on victory.

Playing on Court Suzanne-Lenglen did not faze Djokovic – with Roger Federer taking prime position on Court Philippe-Chatrier – as he held throughout a gruelling third set and completed the job with a 10th ace of an entertaining contest.

Data Slam: Another milestone reached for Djokovic

Thursday's match was Djokovic's 350th at a grand slam and he looked very impressive pretty much from the moment he recovered from his early wobble. Cuevas also played well, but his opponent saved eight of the nine break points he faced to set up a meeting with Berankis.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Djokovic – 23/22
Cuevas – 31/26

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Djokovic – 10/3
Cuevas – 5/3

BREAK POINTS WON
Djokovic – 5/8
Cuevas – 1/9

Ashleigh Barty's French Open campaign came to an end in sad circumstances on Thursday as the world number one was forced to retire hurt when 1-6 2-2 down against Magda Linette.

Barty required medical attention during her first-round win over Bernarda Pera two days earlier, with a hip injury a cause for concern.

The 25-year-old – back at Roland Garros for the first time since winning her maiden grand slam title in Paris in 2019 – vowed to "play through the pain barrier", yet the injury proved too much to deal with on Thursday.

Barty's retirement throws the draw wide open, with both of the top seeds now out after Naomi Osaka decided to withdraw amid her disagreement with tournament organisers.

Barty's discomfort seemed evident from the off, though Linette did have to fend off an immediate break point to hold in the first game.

The Australian had to claw back three break points on her first serve, however, and a double fault in game four handed Linette the first break, with Barty clearly struggling when attempting to twist to her right.

A lame backhand into the net gifted Linette another break, and the Pole served out the set at the first time of asking with just 36 minutes on the clock.

After a lengthy delay in which she received treatment both on court and back in the changing rooms, Barty returned with seemingly renewed vigour to hold the first game of set two with relative ease.

Linette, though, kept her composure, with a couple of aces helping her level things up, and despite winning the next game thanks to her speed of serve, Barty was grimacing again.

Some excellent returns from Barty kept Linette at bay, but the world number 45 struck a powerful serve down the middle to make it 2-2, and that proved the final straw for her opponent, who shook hands at the net and, with a wave to the crowd, trudged down the tunnel.

DATA SLAM: BARTY'S BRAVE FACE NOT ENOUGH

Linette has claimed one of the biggest wins of her career, though the 29-year-old would have wished for it to come in more glorious circumstances. Barty tried her best to continue, but the injury was having too much of an impact on the key parts of her game – she made four double faults to Linette's zero, and tallied up 18 unforced errors, double the amount of her opponent.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Barty – 9/18
Linette – 12/9

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Barty – 2/4
Linette – 4/0

BREAK POINTS WON
Barty – 0/1
Linette – 2/7

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers hailed the "absolutely amazing" defensive improvement made by Tyrese Maxey following the rookie guard's starring role in his side's progression to the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

Maxey laid on 13 points, six rebounds, two assists and claimed one steal during his 26 minutes on the court in Wednesday's 129-112 series-closing win against the Washington Wizards.

The 20-year-old has posted double digits in successive playoff games, but Rivers was more impressed by the other aspect of the youngster's performance against the Wizards.

"I think he is a hell of a player," Rivers said. "I think he has found himself. He figures out now how we need him to play. 

"That makes not only him a good player, but everybody else good on the floor when he is on the floor."

With star man Joel Embiid again absent for Game 5 due to a knee problem, Maxey has stepped up for the 76ers when needed after struggling during the regular season on defense.

"He was our worst defender and it wasn't close – the numbers said that to you," Rivers added. 

"The last month he has turned a corner defensively. He made so many little plays defensively – rebounds, digs, getting steals. Obviously, the offensive energy was there but watching him grow defensively for this team has been absolutely amazing."

Seth Curry's playoff career-high 30 points, a triple-double from Ben Simmons and a 28-point showing courtesy of Tobias Harris helped the 76ers past the Wizards.

The Atlanta Hawks await in the Eastern Conference semi-finals and Rivers is hopeful Embiid will be back in contention for Game 1 on Sunday.

"He's a competitor. The fact that he's not playing tonight or whenever he can't play, it bothers him," Rivers said. "He's really not in a great place that way, but he's good. He'll be fine.

"I don't know exactly when he will be back. At least I'm hopeful. I think that's be a better way of putting it. He's going do his treatment, and we're going to assess the day-to-day and see when we can get him."

Naomi Osaka's shock withdrawal from the French Open has raised questions over news conferences and their impact on mental health for athletes.

Osaka pulled out of Roland Garros on Monday, a day after tournament organisers fined the four-time grand slam champion and threatened her with more severe sanctions for refusing to attend mandatory media conferences.

The 23-year-old world number two and Japanese star had opened up about her mental health problems, revealing in a statement she has had "long bouts of depression" since claiming the 2018 US Open.

While her WTA and ATP Tour colleagues voiced their support, Osaka's stance has sparked controversy, though more importantly it has highlighted the growing issue of mental health problems in sport.

"I think it's a very important stance because it really highlights how sport has really looked at challenging issues through either the paradigm of sport or business," World Players Association executive director Brendan Schwab told Stats Perform. "Here, there is a very simple rule put in place that athletes have to attend post-match media conferences in order to promote visibility around the sport and then to promote the commercial interests of the sport. But that rule is put in place without any due diligence being done as to the risks with that on athletes or athlete health and safety.

"If we look at health and safety, we have to look at not only physical health but mental health and wellbeing. There is a very clear rule but it's going to impact athletes differently. The tournament organisers and sports bodies need to understand they have this proactive duty and to be aware of those impacts, and where their rule is going to have a harmful impact, they need to just adjust their procedures and requirements accordingly."

German great Boris Becker voiced his concerns for Osaka's future following her decision to quit the French Open in Paris.

A six-time slam winner, Becker told Eurosport: "I always believed the media was part of the job. Without the media, there is no prize money, no contracts, you don't get half the cake. I hated the media and I didn't like talking to journalists, but you had to do it.

"Now she is pulling out of the tournament altogether because she can't cope with it and that raises much bigger questions for me. If she can't cope with the media in Paris, she can't cope with the media in Wimbledon or the US Open. So I almost feel like her career is in danger due to mental health issues."

It is a view shared by many past and present tennis players – news conferences are part and parcel of the job. But are they?

"I think everyone would agree that is an important part of the job, but certainly not an essential part. The essential part of the job is performing as a player. But we cannot ask people to perform in circumstances where it's unsafe. It may be safe for some and unsafe for others," said Schwab.

"As in this case, there is an understanding that a particular player has a pre-condition or certain vulnerability, not to respond to that is inexcusable. It's certainly no defence to say it's safe for other people. That is why we need a real deep understanding of mental health.

"It's really important to see it as an occupational issue. A sporting place is not an ordinary workplace. It is a workplace which has heightened pressure. Therefore, the likelihood of there being adverse mental health impacts are greater. It's not going to affect everyone equally and sports bodies need to be smart enough to understand that fact."

Schwab added: "For Naomi's incredibly courageous stance here, there will be other players for which withdrawal is not an option and they will continue to face the workplace and pressures associated with that and therefore exacerbating the harm they're already experiencing."

The World Players Association is the leading voice of organised players in the governance of world sport. It brings together 85,000 players across professional sport through more than 100 player associations in over 60 countries.

As mental health becomes more prevalent in a professional sports environment amid the growing physical and emotional demands, Schwab said: "What our Players Associations do is they run player development and wellbeing programmes. The more sophisticated of those programmes would actually have employees and experts who are engaged by the player associations but often based in the teams or club environment, so the players know they can access them, they are proximate to the players so they can access tailored advice and support.

"Mental health is one of those things but there are many other issues that players will have to deal with. The athletic career itself is short-term and precarious, so there is constant effort being made to ensure players are developing holistically, they're pursuing education and other opportunities."

As Schwab voiced his disapproval of the "blanket rule" to post-match commitments, the Australian shed light on how the World Players Association prepares athletes for the media.

"Certainly part of our development programmes, we will provide what we call induction programmes so that the players go through what they will expect in terms of their athletic career, so they can excel as athletes and in the job," he said. "Clearly, dealing with the media is a very important part of those programmes, but you have to be really careful to ensure this isn't a 'one-size-fits-all' approach. Player associations have a common interest with sports bodies to maximise the interest in the sport and commercial viability so the players can share in their wealth, but the impact is dispiriting.

"If we look at the way players are being trained physically, physical loads are being tailored based on the individual athletic capacity of certain players. Physical health is not the only health and safety concern we have to be worried about. Players have different vulnerabilities in terms of mental health and therefore it makes absolute sense for sports bodies to tailor their commitments, so they don't unnecessarily expose more vulnerable players than others. A blanket rule, like in this case, where athletes feel vulnerable and are at risk of an adverse health consequence should not be imposed.

"I really do believe the tournament organisers, Roland Garros in particular, exacerbated that harm when they started to promote the fact that other players were comfortable to do the press conferences in order to put pressure on Naomi, and clearly that has proven to be incredibly counterproductive… if the starting point is not a recognition of their proactive duty to provide a safe workplace and that safe workplace means understanding the physical, mental and the wellbeing risks holistically and then tailoring for the particular needs of players individually, then these kind of problems will likely reoccur."

Trae Young relished his starring role as the Atlanta Hawks beat the New York Knicks 103-89 to secure progression to the Eastern Conference semi-finals on Wednesday.

Young had been targeted by fans throughout the first-round playoff series, even being spat on by one of them during Game 2.

He was given a frosty reception again at Madison Square Garden this time around, with certain chants aimed at the 22-year-old, but Young had the last laugh.

In the final minute as Knicks fans rose to give their team one last ovation with Hawks cruising to a comfortable win that ultimately eliminated the hosts, Young sunk a three-pointer before bowing at the centre of the court and waving goodbye to the crowd.

The cheers quickly turned back to jeers.

"I know where we are. I know it's a bunch of shows around this city," Young said afterwards. "And I know what they do when the show is over.

"It feels good. Like I said since the beginning of the season, I feel like I've worked my whole life for this moment, to play in the playoffs on the biggest stage.

"I put in a lot of work. A lot of the guys who have been here have done the same. It feels good to win it. It feels good to win the series. Now we get to focus on the second round."

Young played a leading role for the Hawks, his 36 points and nine assists both highs for the match.

On top of that, his consistency throughout the series has undoubtedly been important for the Hawks, with Young averaging 29.2 points and 9.8 assists each game, while also getting the winning points in Game 1.

He ends the series with 146 points, which is the seventh-best playoff hall in the NBA since the 1976-77 ABA-NBA merger, and his team-mate John Collins suggested the Knicks crowd chose the wrong man to pick on.

"Trae loves this stuff," he said. "He's in the gym grinding. You see him pandering and playing to the crowd.

"Certain guys get motivated and find their reason and extra motivation to play based off the crowd. The crowd does give you energy.

"Trae loves to use that negative energy and use it as fuel for him. For whatever fans who want to keep antagonising that man, please go right ahead. It's not going to bother him, and we've got his back as well."

The Hawks will face top seeds Philadelphia 76ers in the next round.

Cody Bellinger had a game to remember as the red-hot Los Angeles Dodgers used a devastating first inning to crush the St Louis Cardinals 14-3.

Dodgers star Bellinger hit a grand slam and finished with six RBIs for the MLB World Series champions, who routed the Cardinals thanks to 11 runs in the opening inning on Wednesday.

The 11-run first inning marked the Dodgers' highest-scoring inning in regular-season play since the franchise relocated to Los Angeles in 1958.

Bellinger fuelled the Dodgers, firstly by scoring a two-run single to give the team a 3-1 lead before hitting his sixth career grand slam.

He became the first Dodgers player to drive in six-plus runs in one inning since the team's move to LA.

 

Cubs conquer Padres

Javier Baez's two-run homer guided the Chicago Cubs to a comprehensive 6-1 victory over the San Diego Padres for a three-game series sweep.

Yan Gomes hit a go-ahead homer in the eighth inning as the Washington Nationals overcame the Atlanta Braves 5-3. Juan Soto's two-run homer in the fifth gave the Nationals a 3-1 advantage. Since 2018, Soto has the most home runs (12) of 430-plus feet by a Nationals player.

 

Flexen endures difficult outing

Chris Flexen struggled as the Seattle Mariners were blanked 6-0 by the Oakland Athletics. Seattle starter Flexen conceded a two-run double and finished with seven hits, five runs and a homer against his name through six innings.

As the Dodgers celebrated a monster inning, Cardinals ace Carlos Martinez could not leave the field soon enough. He went two-thirds of an inning, facing 12 batters as he allowed 10 runs on six hits with four walks and a strikeout.

 

Blue Jays complete comeback in walk-off fashion

The Toronto Blue Jays rallied with three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to top the Miami Marlins 6-5. Joe Panik's sacrifice fly allowed Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to score the winning run after Bo Bichette had levelled proceedings with a two-run triple.

 

Wednesday's results

Chicago Cubs 6-1 San Diego Padres
New York Mets 7-6 Arizona Diamondbacks
Baltimore Orioles 6-3 Minnesota Twins
New York Yankees 4-3 Tampa Bay Rays
Toronto Blue Jays 6-5 Miami Marlins
Washington Nationals 5-3 Atlanta Braves
Houston Astros 2-1 Boston Red Sox
Colorado Rockies 6-3 Texas Rangers
Los Angeles Dodgers 14-3 St Louis Cardinals
Oakland Athletics 6-0 Seattle Mariners
Philadelphia Phillies-Cincinnati Reds (postponed)
Chicago White Sox-Cleveland Indians (postponed)

 

Tigers at White Sox

The lowly Detroit Tigers (23-32) will visit the high-flying White Sox (33-22) on Thursday. In an all-American League (AL) Central showdown, leaders the White Sox will look to snap a two-game skid with Dallas Keuchel on the mound. Casey Mize starts for the Tigers.

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