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Elias Says: May 2, 2017

LeBron leads the way for Cavs in Game 1

LeBron James scored a game-high 35 points and secured 10 rebounds to propel the Cavaliers to victory in Game 1 of their semifinals matchup with the Raptors. Monday’s performance marked the 15th time James scored at least 30 points in the opener of a playoff series (his team is 12–3 in such games). Only three players have produced as many 30-point games in Game 1’s as James – Michael Jordan (27), Kobe Bryant (18), and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (15). James has also produced 49 30-point double-doubles in the playoffs, tied for third-most in NBA history, behind only Elgin Baylor (57) and Abdul-Jabbar (52). Shaquille O'Neal also tallied 49 30-point double-doubles in the postseason.

Irving in a giving mood

Kyrie Irving also played a big role in the Cavaliers’ Game 1 victory over the Raptors, scoring 24 points and distributing a team-high 10 assists, Irving’s personal best for a playoff game. Irving reaching double-digits in assists has been a good indication for victory in the regular season for Cleveland. The Cavs are 24–5 in Irving’s 10-assist games in the regular season, including 14–0 since the start of the 2014–15 campaign.

Same old story for Raptors in series opener

A loss in a series opener is a familiar sight for the Raptors and their fans. Toronto is 1–12 all-time in Game 1’s, including losses in its last 10 such games. No other team in NBA history has lost as many as 10 consecutive playoff series openers. The Raptors had been tied for the longest streak of series-opening losses with the Kings, who lost nine straight Game 1’s from 1981 to 2001 before snapping their skid with a first-round series-opening win over the Jazz in 2002.

Rockets dominate Spurs in San Antonio

The Rockets blasted off to a huge lead in the first half and coasted to a 126–99 victory over the Spurs in Game 1 of their semifinals matchup. The Spurs scored on their first possession but would never lead after that as the Rockets ended the first quarter with an 11-point advantage. Houston dominated the second quarter in San Antonio and headed to the locker room with a 69–39 edge at the end of the first half. That 30-point difference is the third-largest halftime lead for a road team in an NBA playoff game. The Bucks led the 76ers, 77–41, at the half on March 30, 1970 at Philadelphia, and the Bulls held a 65–33 advantage over the Bucks after two quarters on April 30, 2015 at Milwaukee.

The Spurs’ 27-point loss in Game 1 versus the Rockets marked the franchise’s largest margin of defeat in a home playoff game, and that includes San Antonio’s tenure in the ABA as well. Only two other teams in NBA history lost the opener of a playoff series at home by at least 27 points. The Suns were defeated, 129–90, in Phoenix in Game 1 of their first-round matchup with the Jazz in 1991, and the Blazers lost 108–81 in Portland in the first game of their opening-round series against the Rockets in 2009.

Three is key for Rockets in Game 1 win

The Rockets were firing early and often from behind the arc, attempting a playoff-record 50 three-pointers and making 22 of them. Prior to the start of the 2016–17 season, no NBA team had ever taken as many as 50 three-point field-goal attempts in a game of any length. But there were 13 such games during the 2016–17 regular season, with the Rockets accounting for 11 of those 13 instances, including a high of 61 three-point attempts in a game against the Pelicans on December 16.

Harden needed just three quarters to post huge numbers

James Harden produced 20 points and 14 assists in the Rockets’ victory over the Spurs despite sitting out the fourth quarter with Houston comfortably ahead (Harden played 31:20 on Monday, his second-lowest minutes total in 40 playoff games with the Rockets). The only player prior to Harden to score at least 20 points and distribute 14 or more assists in a playoff game with no more than 32 minutes on the court was Magic Johnson, who had two such games with the Lakers. Johnson posted 22 points and 20 assists in 31 minutes in Game 2 of the 1987 Finals versus the Celtics, and he totaled 21 points and 17 assists in 31 minutes in Game 1 of the Lakers’ semifinals matchup with the Warriors in 1991.

Shattenkirk nets OT-winner for Capitals

Kevin Shattenkirk’s first playoff goal for the Capitals was the overtime winner in Game 3 of their series against the Penguins. He’s only the third defenseman ever to score a playoff overtime goal for the Capitals. The others were Rod Langway in Game 4 of Washington’s second-round series against the Rangers in 1990 and Mike Green in Game 2 of a first-round matchup versus the Rangers in 2013. Shattenkirk, who was traded to the Caps by the Blues on February 27, is the first player in franchise history to score a playoff overtime goal for the club after playing for another NHL team during the preceding regular season.

Reds snap extra-innings skid with walkoff win

Billy Hamilton’s 10th-inning hit drove in the game-winning run for the Reds in their walkoff win over the Pirates. Hamilton’s game-ending hit also brought an end to a long losing streak for Cincinnati – entering Monday, the Reds had lost their last 11 extra-inning home games dating back to July 2015. That streak of 11 straight home losses in extra innings is tied for the longest streak of its kind in major-league history. The Cardinals also lost 11 straight extra-inning home games from 1945 to 1946.

Pence finally gets to Kershaw, as does Posey

Hunter Pence deposited a curveball from Clayton Kershaw into the left-field bleachers in the first inning at Dodger Stadium, giving the Giants the early advantage in their 4–3 victory over the Dodgers. Pence entered Monday’s game with a .100/.113/.100 slash-line against Kershaw, compiling just seven hits in 70 at-bats with none going for extra bases. That had been the second-lowest batting average for any active batter with at least 50 at-bats versus an active pitcher – Pence’s teammate Brandon Belt owns a .059 batting average (and .078 slugging average) versus Kershaw.

Kershaw also allowed a homer to Buster Posey, which gave the Giants the lead for good in the third inning. Kershaw surrendered multiple home runs in only one of his previous 36 starts versus San Francisco. On April 9, 2016 at AT&T Park, Kershaw finished with a no-decision after allowing solo homers by Madison Bumgarner and Ehire Adrianza, though the Dodgers prevailed over the Giants that day in extra innings.

Machado saving homers for familiar foes

Manny Machado drove in two runs, including a solo homer in the sixth inning that flew out of Fenway Park, in the Orioles’ 5–2 victory over the Red Sox. Dating back to August 26 of last season, each of Machado’s last 13 home runs have been hit against teams from the AL East – six against the Yankees, three versus the Red Sox, and two against both the Blue Jays and Rays. Machado is tied with Jay Bruce for the second-longest active streak of home runs coming against a divisional opponent. Brian Dozier owns the longest current streak of that kind, as each of his last 21 homers have come against teams from the AL Central.

Goins’ sacrifice is twice as nice for Blue Jays

Ryan Goins doubled his RBIs total for the season from four to eight in the Blue Jays’ 7–1 victory over the Yankees in the Bronx. Goins drove in Toronto’s first four runs on Monday, hitting a two-run homer in the second inning and a two-run sacrifice fly in the sixth. You read that right – a sac fly that plated not one but two runs. With runners on second and third, Goins skied a fly ball that was corralled by Jacoby Ellsbury moments before crashing into the wall, a collision that allowed both runners to score. The last player in the majors to drive in multiple runs on a sacrifice fly also did so against Ellsbury and the Yankees. On Sept. 16, 2014 at Tropicana Field, Wil Myers smashed a drive to center field that was caught on a dive by Ellsbury. Evan Longoria scored easily from third base, and James Loney was able to slide in safely as well.

Another rough first inning for Cubs

Tommy Joseph capped a four-run first inning for the Phillies with a three-run homer, giving them all the runs they would need in a 10–2 victory over the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Chicago’s pitchers have been shelled in the first inning this season, allowing 32 runs in 25 games. The only other season in which the Cubs allowed as many as 30 first-inning runs in their first 25 games of a season was in 1887. Chicago, whose National League squad was known as the White Stockings in those days, surrendered 35 first-inning runs in its first 25 games.

Mets and Braves trade leadoff homers

The Mets’ Michael Conforto and Braves’ Ender Inciarte both led off the first inning with a home run for their respective teams at SunTrust Park. Prior to Monday, the Mets had never been involved in a game in which both teams’ leadoff hitters went deep to start the first inning. And the last game of that kind for the Braves took place 67 years ago. On June 3, 1950, at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, Boston Braves leadoff hitter Sam Jethroe homered to start the top of the first inning as did Pirates leadoff man Hank Schenz in the bottom of the first inning (the Braves went on to win, 10–6).

Clutch hitting by Royals

The Royals snapped their nine-game losing streak with a 6–1 victory over the White Sox on Monday. All six runs for Kansas City were scored with two-out hits – Jorge Bonifacio’s two-run homer in the fourth inning, Salvador Perez’s two-run single in the fifth, and Eric Hosmer’s two-run homer in the seventh. Last season the Royals plated 41 percent of their runs with two outs, which was the second-highest percentage in the majors behind the Rays (42%). Kansas City had been less successful in that situation this season – the Royals scored 19 two-out runs in April, fewest in the majors.

Shaw powers Brewers to 10-inning victory

With two on and two outs in the top of the 10th inning, Travis Shaw hammered a 1–2 pitch from Cardinals closer Seung Hwan Oh into the seats in right field, giving the Brewers the lead for good in St. Louis. Shaw, who was traded from Boston to Milwaukee this past offseason, has driven in 21 runs in 24 games for Milwaukee. Only three other players produced 20 RBIs within their first 24 games after joining the Brewers. Richie Sexson drove in 21 runs in his first 21 games for the Brewers in 2000, and two players needed 23 games to reach 20 RBIs for Milwaukee – Larry Hisle (1978) and Greg Brock (1987).

Beckham comes through in big spot for Rays

Tim Beckham drove in two runs with a two-out double in the fourth inning, putting the Rays on the scoreboard in their 4–2 win over the Marlins in Miami. Entering play on Monday, Beckham had batted 2-for-21 (.095) with runners in scoring position this season, tied for the third-lowest batting average among players with at least 20 at-bats in that situation this year. Monday’s two-bagger marked Beckham’s first extra-base hit with runners in scoring position this season.