Last Week in Sports | 1/29/18 – 2/4/18
Did the Eagles just do that?
Blake Griffin Traded to the Pistons
The NBA world felt a disturbance in the force on Monday when it was announced that LA Clippers’ franchise forward and superstar talent, Blake Griffin, would be traded to the Detroit Pistons, mainly for Tobias Harris and Avery Bradley. Griffin, you might remember, was honored last summer with a choir in the Staples Center that sang about what Griffin meant to LA as they lifted his jersey into the rafters to symbolize how his number would be retired by the franchise one day. A few months later, coach and GM Doc Rivers traded him away.
This trade is one of those rare moves that seems to be good for both teams and the players involved. The Clippers, looking to blow up their roster and start anew, get a young player with a high ceiling in Tobias Harris, while the Pistons get another All-Star caliber player to go along with Andre Drummond and now pose a serious threat in the eastern conference. If there’s anything negative about it, it’s that Griffin found out about the trade via Twitter, which further illustrates how NBA players are expected to award their franchises a loyalty that they are not afforded in return.
James Harden’s Big Game
Like I predicted in this article, barring injury, James Harden is your NBA MVP this season, and he just took another stride towards that elusive award as he recorded a 60 point triple double, the first of its kind, against the Orlando Magic last Tuesday. Houston was out Chris Paul and Trevor Ariza, two of their four main offensive options, and lost Eric Gordon, their third of the four, ten minutes into the game. Harden simply took over. He played 46 minutes and shot 19-for-30 from the floor, including a game-clinching four point play.
In attendance that night was NBA legend Calvin Murphy, who held the Rockets’ single-game scoring record until, well, that night. The word “historic” gets thrown around a lot in sports. Fans like it, the media likes it, and the MVP voters like it. In this case it’s warranted. See highlights from Harden’s historic performance below, and let him continue to make the argument that the Rockets might be able to defeat Golden State.
Woodland in the Desert
The Waste Management Phoenix Open took place this weekend and saw several big name golfers take the tee in Arizona. Gary Woodland, the 33-year old ex-prodigy, earned his first major win in five years in overtime against Chez Reavie. Woodland looked like the athletic young man that was once expected to dominate the golf world and had the confidence to boot. Several other stars disappointed over the weekend, Ricky Fowler most notable among them, who “couldn’t buy a putt.” Old man Phil Mickelson also played and proved he still has all the skill in the world if not the strength to really compete for a win.
The Eagles Just Did That
The Eagles needed to play a perfect, inventive offensive game to win the Super Bowl. They did. They needed Nick Foles, Alshon Jeffery, and Nelson Agholor to step it up to Pro-Bowl level. They did. And they needed a huge play from their defensive line in the final minutes of the game. They got it. Philadelphia silenced the haters last night and won their first Super Bowl in franchise history without their MVP-caliber starting QB, Carson Wentz.
Memorable moments included a Patriots’ trick play that led to a pass intended for Tom Brady, the slowest man in the NFL, who couldn’t get to it for a 3rd down conversion. Another trick play by the Eagles also targeted their quarterback and was caught by Foles in the end zone. The most important defensive play of the game came with a few minutes left in the 4th. Tom Brady was stripped by defensive lineman Brandon Graham as he cocked his arm back to throw. The forced fumble was recovered by Philadelphia and by the time the Patriots got the ball back, there wasn’t enough time to make up the 8-point difference. Coach Doug Pederson of the Eagles called the game masterfully and earned his place in the Philadelphia sports canon, coming from coaching high school only nine years ago to winning a Super Bowl for a tortured franchise with creative play-calling less than a decade later.
The Patriots notably benched Malcolm Butler, their absolutely baller cornerback, star of Super Bowl 49, who played 98% of the Patriots’ defensive snaps all year until last night. The reasons for his benching were not made clear by Bill Belichick when asked, and, to my amateur eye, they certainly could have used Butler’s lockdown defense on multiple plays as Nick Foles took advantage of the less skilled Eric Rowe’s coverage time and again. Belichick noted in a press conference that the decision was not made for disciplinary reasons, a “strictly football” decision, but no one in the world believes him. If they could have the evening back, Butler would be on the field.
This was one of the more entertaining Super Bowls in recent memory. With over one thousand yards of combined offense between the teams–depending on how next season plays out–the game may come to symbolize the end of the Patriots’ incredible, 17-year dynastic run. You can see footage of the Patriots’ loss below.