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Elias Says: April 18, 2017

A Big Game for the Big Three

Kyrie Irving led all scorers with 37 points, while Kevin Love (27) and LeBron James (25) weren’t far behind as the Cavaliers took a two-games-to-none series lead with a 117–111 victory over the visiting Pacers. In the Cavaliers’ 191st playoff game in their 47-year history, it was the first time that three Cleveland players each produced 25-or-more points.

Each of the Big Three enjoyed an excellent shooting night: Irving made 14 of 24 field-goal attempts, James made 11 of 20, and Love made six of seven. It was the first playoff game since 1993—a span of nearly 1900 playoff games—in which three teammates each scored 25-or-more points while shooting at least 55 percent from the floor. The last team to do that, ironically, was Indiana against the Knicks on May 4, 1993, thanks to the efforts of Reggie Miller, Rik Smits and Detlef Schrempf.

Old-school Kawhi drops 37

Kawhi Leonard scored an old-school 37 points—nine field goals with nary a three-pointer among them, and 19-for-19 from the foul line—as the Spurs downed the Grizzles, 96–82, to move out to a two-games-to-none series lead. That was the highest points total that Leonard has ever produced in a playoff game, and it was the third-highest total of free-throw attempts without a miss in NBA playoff history. Dirk Nowitzki went 24-for-24 from the line in a playoff game in 2011, and Paul Pierce had a 21-for-21 effort in 2003.

Ducks fly away with comeback win

Corey Perry scored in overtime to cap a wild comeback win for the Ducks in Game Three of their series with the Flames. A 4–1 Ducks’ deficit was trimmed to 4–2 thanks to a goal by Shea Theodore in the final minute of the second period. After a third-period score by Nate Thompson brought Anaheim to within one, Theodore scored his second goal of the night with 4:21 remaining in regulation to even the score, setting the stage for Perry’s winner. In the last 10 years, only two other teams won a playoff game in which they trailed by as many as three goals in the final 21 minutes of regulation. The Capitals won a double-overtime thriller over the Rangers at Madison Square Garden in 2011 after overcoming a three-goal deficit in the final 18 minutes of the third period. And on May 13, 2013, the Bruins walked off with a Game 7 overtime victory over the Maple Leafs after Boston scored three goals in the final 11 minutes of the third period.

Monahan has the power

Sean Monahan, who scored the first goal for the Flames in Game Three, has scored a goal for Calgary in every game of the series and each goal was a power play tally. He’s the first player in Flames history to score a power play goal in each of the team’s first three games of a playoff year, and the first Calgary player to score a goal of any kind in each of the club’s first three postseason games since Mike Bullard did so in 1987. Since 2000, the only other NHL player to begin a playoff year with a PPG streak of three games or longer were Teemu Selanne for the Ducks in 2011 (first four games) and John Carlson for the Capitals in 2016 (first three games).

Game-winner for Ryan

Bobby Ryan scored the first playoff overtime goal of his NHL career to give the Senators a 4–3 victory in Game Three of their series against the Bruins, after Ottawa had squandered a 3–0 lead. Ryan scored 13 goals in the 62 games he played for Ottawa during the 2016–17 regular season but none of those goals were game-winners. He’s the fifth player in Senators history to score a playoff overtime goal for the club after a regular season with no game-winning goals for Ottawa. The other Senators to do that were Bruce Gardiner (1998), Mike Fisher (2004), Matt Carkner (2010) and Chris Neil (2012).

Another rookie nets OT winner in playoffs

Kevin Fiala scored in overtime to give the Predators a three-games-to-none lead in their series with the Blackhawks. Fiala became the third rookie to score an overtime goal in the 2017 playoffs, joining Toronto’s Kasperi Kapanen and Pittsburgh’s Jake Guentzel. The last season in which as many as three rookies scored overtime winners in the opening round of the postseason was in 2003–04. In the first round of the 2004 playoff year, San Jose’s Niko Dimitrakos, Boston’s Patrice Bergeron and Colorado’s Marek Svatos all potted skate-off winners.

Kane scores milestone goal

Patrick Kane scored the 50th playoff goal of his NHL career in Game Three of the Blackhawks’ series against the Predators. Kane, a Buffalo native, is the fourth U.S.-born player in NHL history to score at least 50 goals in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The others, all retired for at least six years, are Joe Mullen (60 goals), Mike Modano (58) and Jeremy Roenick (53).

Bozak ends another long one for Toronto

Tyler Bozak’s power play goal at the 1:37 mark of overtime earned the Maple Leafs a 4–3 win over the Capitals and a two-games-to-one lead in their first-round series. All three games in this series have required more than 60 minutes to determine a winner, with Toronto prevailing in the last two games after Washington won the opener. This is the sixth playoff series in NHL history in which each of the first three (or more) games went to overtime and the first since 2012, when the Coyotes and Blackhawks tied the record with five straight OT games to begin their first-round series. (The Coyotes won three of those five overtime games, and then took the series with a regulation win in Game Six.) The only other Stanley Cup series to begin with five consecutive overtime games was the 1951 Final, with the Maple Leafs beating the Canadiens in a five-game series, all of which were decided in extra time.

Taking care of business (and working overtime)

Every NHL team was working overtime on Monday night, as all four games required an extra period to settle the score. This was just the third day on which there were as many as four NHL overtime playoff games. There was also four playoff games that required extra time on April 11, 1980 and April 10, 1985.

Kimbrel faces three, fans three

Craig Kimbrel’s impressive save extinguished any thoughts of a Patriots’ Day comeback by the Rays, who dropped a 4–3 decision at Fenway Park. Kimbrel entered in the ninth inning and struck out the only three hitters he faced, who happened to be the top three hitters in Tampa Bay’s lineup – Corey Dickerson, Kevin Kiermaier and Evan Longoria. This is the 49th season for which saves have been recorded by Major League Baseball, and Kimbrel was only the eighth major leaguer who earned one by entering with a one-run lead in the ninth inning and struck out the opponents’ starting one-two-three hitters. The last to do that was Greg Holland for the Royals against the White Sox on Aug. 8, 2015.

Thames and Braun overcome Cubs

There was just too much Eric Thames and Ryan Braun, each of whom contributed a single, a double and a homer, at Wrigley Field on Monday night as the Brewers secured a 6–3 victory. For Thames, it was his fifth consecutive game with a home run (tying the Brewers record set by Jeromy Burnitz in 1997) and his seventh straight game with an extra-base hit (one shy of the franchise record, last done by Burnitz in 2001).

Braun, meanwhile, lifted his career batting average against the Cubs to .338 and his home run was his 31st against the North Siders. Among the 49 players who have hit at least 30 home runs against the Cubs, only two have an against-the-Cubs batting average as high as Braun’s: Hall-of-Famers Rogers Hornsby (.364 with 40 home runs) and Chuck Klein (.341 with 38 homers), each of whom played for the Cubs in the latter stages of his career.

Lynn back in victory column, Cards back in the save column

Lance Lynn tossed seven scoreless innings and the Cardinals’ beleaguered bullpen held on during a nail-biting ninth as St. Louis nipped the visiting Pirates, 2–1. It was the first win of the season for Lynn, who missed all of last season after undergoing surgery but who was one of only six major-leaguers to earn as many as 60 victories over the four years from 2012 to 2015. (You may have heard of the others: Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Madison Bumgarner and David Price.)

Seung-Hwan Oh allowed the lone Pittsburgh run on a pinch-hit double by Gregory Polanco in the ninth inning, but John Jaso then grounded out to end the game. It was not only Oh’s first save of the season, but the first for the Cardinals, who were the last major-league team, to break into that column this season.

Yanks’ eighth straight win comes from a 24-year-old rookie lefty

Yankees 24-year-old rookie Jordan Montgomery earned his first major-league win in his second start, holding the White Sox scoreless for the first six innings before yielding a three-run homer in the seventh. The young left-hander’s initial big-league win came exactly 10 years to the day since the last time that a rookie left-hander as young as Montgomery started and won a game for the Yankees. On April 17, 2007, Chase Wright (then about six weeks younger than Monty was on Monday night) was the winner in New York’s 10–3 victory over the visiting Indians – the only start that he would win in his big-league career. (In his second, and last, big-league start, five days later at Boston, Wright tied a major-league record by allowing four home runs in an inning.) Other than Wright, the Yankees hadn’t had a rookie left-hander as young as Montgomery start and win a game in the Bronx since Andy Pettitte was a rookie in 1995.

It was the Yankees’ eighth successive victory, including a 7–0 mark in their seven home games this season. It’s the first time since the 2000 season that the Yankees have won eight straight games before the beginning of May, and it’s the first time since the 1998 season that the Bombers have won each of their first seven home games. Joe Torre’s Yankees went on to win the World Series in both 1998 and 2000.

Freeman keeps Braves undefeated at SunTrust Park

Freddie Freeman blasted a pair of home runs, including a game-tying wallop in the eighth inning, and the Braves defeated the Padres, 5–4, on the first walkoff RBI of Dansby Swanson’s big-league career. Freeman’s was the first multiple-homer game at new SunTrust Park. Among the players who were the first to achieve a multiple-homer game at the team’s previous homes were Michael Tucker (at Turner Field in 1997) and Hall-of-Famers Joe Torre (at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium in 1966), Eddie Mathews (at Milwaukee County Stadium in 1953) and Rabbit Maranville (at Boston’s Braves Field in 1919).

Atlanta is now 4–0 at SunTrust Park, the most consecutive wins at a new home stadium (that is, a new regular home field) by any big-league team since the Braves started 5–0 at their previous home, Turner Field, 20 years ago.

Morton wins, Devenski dazzles

Charlie Morton received credit for the Astros’ 3–0 victory over the visiting Angels, going the first five innings before yielding the mound to young Chris Devenski. Devenski is nothing if not a man for his times – he struck out the side in the sixth inning to lift his early-season total to 20 strikeouts in his first 10 innings. That matched the team record for fewest innings into a season required to amass 20 strikeouts; Billy Wagner had 20 strikeouts over his first 10 innings in 1999. (Devenski later fanned Mike Trout to finish the night at 21 strikeouts in 11 innings this season.)

Cano and Cruz go back-to-back in first

Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz hit back-to-back homers off Tom Koehler in the first inning, propelling the Mariners to an early lead in their 6–1 win over the Marlins. Monday’s game marked the second time in three seasons as teammates that Cano and Cruz hit back-to-back jacks in the first inning; they also did so in a loss at Dodger Stadium in April 2015. Two other Mariners duos hit back-to-back homers in the first inning multiple times for Seattle. Alex Rodriguez and Ken Griffey, Jr. did so twice in the 1999 season. The other pair did so twice… in the same game! On May 2, 2002 at Chicago, Bret Boone and Mike Cameron hit back-to-back homers off White Sox starter Jon Rauch in the top of the first inning to plate Seattle’s first three runs, then they both went deep again later in the inning versus reliever Jim Parque to cap a 10-run frame. Cameron would hit two more homers in the contest to become the first and, to this day the only, Mariners player to hit as many as four longballs in a game.

Griffin great for Rangers

A.J. Griffin stifled the A’s over six scoreless innings to lead the Rangers to a 7–0 victory in Oakland. Griffin struck out eight and allowed just two batters to reach base in his brilliant outing – Rajai Davis walked to lead off the game and was thrown out attempting to steal, and Stephen Vogt doubled with one out in the second inning. Since the franchise relocated to Texas in 1972, only three other Rangers pitchers racked up at least eight strikeouts in a game while surrendering no more than one hit and no more than one walk. Hall-of-Famer Ferguson Jenkins allowed one hit and one walk while striking out 10 in a complete-game shutout over the A’s on April 6, 1974. Not a single Angels player reached base on July 28, 1994 against Kenny Rogers, who struck out eight in his perfect game. And, last but not least, Yu Darvish has had three outings for Texas with eight or more strikeouts, one or fewer hits allowed, and no more than one base on balls. All three of those games came at the expense of the Astros (two in Houston in 2013, one in Arlington in 2014).

Lamb not meek anymore on first-pitch swings

Jake Lamb swung at the first pitch against Chris Hatcher in the top of the eighth inning, walloping a solo homer to give the Diamondbacks the lead for good against the Dodgers. Lamb’s productivity when swinging at the first pitch has come a long way since his major-league debut less than three years ago. In his first two major-league seasons (2014–15), Lamb batted .267 in at-bats that lasted one pitch, with no home runs and just two extra-base hits in 45 at-bats. In two seasons since (2016–17), Lamb has batted .468 when swinging at the first pitch with 15 extra-base hits (including eight homers) in 47 at-bats.