Elias Says: June 13, 2017

Warriors are highest-scoring champion in 50 years

The Warriors averaged 121.6 points per game in the Finals, the fourth-highest average in NBA history, and the highest in 50 years, since the 76ers averaged 124.5 points per game against the Warriors in 1967. The other teams to top this year’s Warriors were the Celtics in 1965 (123.4) and 1959 (121.8).

The Warriors and Cavaliers combined for 1182 points, 236.4 per game, the second-highest average ever in the NBA Finals. In 1967, the 76ers defeated the Warriors in six games with the teams combining for an average of 242.3 points per game.

The Cavaliers averaged 114.8 points per game, third-highest in the Finals for the losing side, behind the 1967 Warriors (117.8) and 1984 Lakers (117.4).

Kevin Durant averaged 35.2 points per game, LeBron James averaged 33.6, Kyrie Irving finished with a 29.4 average and Stephen Curry wound up averaging 26.8. It was the first Finals in which four players averaged at least 25 points per game.

Durant scores 30 again, named MVP

Kevin Durant won the Finals MVP Award after becoming the fourth player to score at least 30 points in every game of the Finals for the winning team. The others to do that were also, not surprisingly, named series MVP: Michael Jordan in 1993 (six games, against the Suns), Hakeem Olajuwon in 1995 (four games, against the Magic), and Shaquille O’Neal, who did it twice: in 2000 (six games, against the Pacers) and 2002 (four games, against the Nets).

Durant is the third player to win the Finals MVP Award in his first season with a team, joining Magic Johnson, who did so as a rookie for the Lakers in 1980, and Moses Malone, who won it for the 76ers in 1983.

Durant scored 39 points on Monday and Stephen Curry finished with 34 for a total of 73 points, the second-highest total by teammates in a Finals clincher. Magic Johnson (42) and Jamaal Wilkes (37) combined for 79 points when the Lakers closed out the 76ers in 1980.

And one about James

LeBron James finished the Finals with per-game average of 33.6 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. Forget about the points for a moment; no other player has ever averaged at least 10 rebounds and 10 assists per game in the Finals. And James has never had that many points, rebounds and assists over any five-game span in his career, in the regular season or playoffs.

Judge makes a little more history, however fleeting

Aaron Judge entered Monday leading the American League in all three Triple Crown categories, with a .344 batting average, 21 home runs and 47 RBIs. It was the first time that a rookie led his league in all three of those categories in June or later since 1920 (the first year that RBIs were recorded in the major leagues). But Nelson Cruz knocked in four runs in Seattle’s win over Minnesota to re-take the league RBI lead.

Judge gave the Yankees a lead with an eighth-inning home run on Monday, for his first go-ahead home run in the fifth inning or later in the major leagues. And he scored three runs, giving him 57 in 59 games, the highest total for a Yankees player in his first 60 games of a season since Rickey Henderson had scored 57 times at that point in the 1986 season.

Red Sox win with smallball

The Red Sox defeated the Phillies in 11 innings on Monday, with the winning run scoring on a single, sacrifice bunt, and a walkoff single by Dustin Pedroia. It was only the second walkoff RBI for Pedroia in the regular season or postseason; his other one came against the Dodgers on June 19, 2010. That’s the longest time between walkoff RBIs for the Red Sox since Mike Greenwell went over seven years, from April 18, 1988 to June 2, 1995.

Boston entered the game with five sacrifice bunts, tied for second-fewest in the major leagues.

Braves overcome late deficit to top Nationals

The Nationals had a 9–6 lead on the Braves in the eighth inning on Monday but Atlanta scored twice in the eighth inning and three more times in the ninth to win, 11–10. It was the sixth game this season that Washington lost after leading by at least two runs in the eighth inning or later, twice as many losses as any other major-league team.

Tyler Flowers had the big blow for the Braves, a three-run homer off Matt Albers in the ninth inning. Flowers, who debuted in the major leagues in 2009, had never before hit a behind-to-ahead home run in the ninth inning or later, and Albers, who debuted in 2006, had never before allowed a home run of that type.

The Braves had jumped out to a lead in the first inning on back-to-back home runs by Nick Markakis, ending a 211-at-bat home run drought, and Matt Kemp. They are the first players to hit back-to-back homers against Stephen Strasburg in the major leagues.

DeGrom finishes what he started against Cubs

Jacob deGrom threw a complete game in the Mets’ 6–1 win over the Cubs, after he had entered the game having allowed 15 runs over his previous two games. That ended the Mets’ streak of 293 straight home games without a complete game, since Jonathon Niese blanked the Phillies on August 27, 2013. The only team in major league history to have a longer streak of home games without a complete game was the Rockies, who had a 309-game streak from 2011 to 2014.

Cruz terrorizes Twins

Nelson Cruz knocked in four runs in Seattle’s 14–3 win on Monday at Target Field, which is fast becoming one of Cruz’s favorite ballparks. In his last 11 games there, since the start of the 2014 season, he’s hitting .457 (21 for 46) and slugging 1.174 with nine homers and 20 RBIs.

Darvish dominates Houston again

Yu Darvish held the Astros to one hit in seven innings in the Rangers’ win in Houston on Monday. It was the fourth start of Darvish’s career in which he allowed only one hit, and all four of them have come against the Astros. In one of those games, he had a perfect game broken up with two outs in the ninth inning and in another, he took a no-hitter to the eighth inning. Darvish is the only pitcher in the modern era (since 1900) whose first four starts allowing one or fewer hits all came against the same opponent.

Taillon’s triumphant return

Jameson Taillon made his return to the Pirates’ rotation with five scoreless innings and a win against the Rockies. Taillon, the second overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, has a 3.24 ERA in 25 starts in the major leagues. Only two top-two picks since 1990 had a lower ERA than Taillon through 25 starts: Stephen Strasburg (2.44) and Mark Prior (2.87).

First place Twins get first choice

The Twins, in first place in the A.L. Central, chose Royce Lewis with the first overall pick in the MLB Draft on Monday. Only three other teams have made the first pick of the June amateur draft while holding first place in their league or division: the Orioles in 1989 (selected Ben McDonald first overall), 1995 Angels (Darin Erstad) and 2001 Twins (Joe Mauer).