Elias Says: October 22, 2017

Morton & McCullers are enough to tame Yankees

Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers, Jr. brought their “A” game to the climactic contest of the American League Championship Series, and their contrasting styles limited the Yankees to three hits and helped the Astros capture their first American League pennant with a 4-0 win. And yes, Houston will be the first team to represent both the National League and the American League in the Fall Classic.

Morton had been the losing pitcher in Game Three of the ALCS, and even with his 14-7 won-lost record this season, his career regular-season record over his 10-year career is 60-78 (.435). That’s the lowest regular-season winning percentage for any pitcher who started and won a winner-take-all game in the League Championship Series (thereby putting his team into the World Series).

The Astros held the Yankees to three runs in the four ALCS games played in Houston—the fewest runs surrendered by any MLB team in four home games over a best-of-seven postseason series. The previous record was also set against the Yankees: In the 2001 World Series, the Diamondbacks limited the Bombers to five runs over the four games played in Phoenix (all of which the D-backs won).

The Yankees, now 14-13 all-time in winner-take-all postseason games, were blanked in such a game for the fourth time in those 27 games. They were shut out in Game Seven of the World Series in both 1955 (by Johnny Podres of the Brooklyn Dodgers) and 1957 (by Lew Burdette of the Milwaukee Braves). And two years ago, Dallas Keuchel and three relievers combined for a 3-0 win in the A.L. Wild Card game. All of those previous shutouts came in the Bronx.

Altuve leads the way, and everyone hits for Houston

Jose Altuve hit his fifth home run of the postseason in Houston’s pennant-clinching victory. He batted .533 (8-for-15) in the Astros’ four ALCS victories, the highest batting average by a player in his team’s four wins in a postseason series since Pablo Sandoval (.588, 10-for-17) and Hunter Pence (.563, 9-for-16) excelled in the Giants’ four wins in the 2014 World Series vs. Kansas City.

Every Astros batter contributed at least one hit in their Game Seven victory, marking only the third time that every player who came to the plate for a team in a winner-take-all postseason game made at least one hit. It last happened in Game Seven of the 2004 ALCS, when the Red Sox completed their unprecedented comeback from a three-games-to-none deficit by defeating the Yankees, 10-3, and advancing to the World Series. All 10 players in the Red Sox lineup had at least one hit in that game. The other time it happened in a winner-take-all game was in Game Seven of the 1934 World Series, when all 10 Cardinals players had at least one hit in their 11-0 victory at Detroit. (That was the game in which Commissioner Kenesaw Landis ordered St. Louis outfielder Joe Medwick out of the game, for his own protection, after angry fans threw bombarded him with debris following a brief altercation with a Detroit player.)

Astros vs. Dodgers

The Astros (101-61 this season) advanced to face the Dodgers (104-58) in the World Series. This marks the first time since 1970, when the Orioles (108-54) defeated the Reds (102-60) in five games, that a pair of 100-win teams will participate in the World Series. Thus ends the longest drought without a meeting of 100-win teams in the World Series in the history of the Fall Classic.

In other Houston news: Rockets flatten Mavs

The Rockets won their third straight game to start the season, downing the Mavericks, 107-91, in Houston’s home opener, about a 15-minute walk from Minute Maid Park where the Astros were downing the Yankees to advance to the World Series. James Harden, who led the way with a game-high 29 points, hit six of his 13 shots from behind the three-point arc. That was considerably better shooting than was displayed by his teammates, who went 5-for-34 from downtown.

Dirk Nowitzki scored just two points in 17 minutes, 56 seconds for Dallas, the fewest points that he has ever scored in any of the 1357 regular-season NBA games in which he has played at least 17 minutes.

In other New York news: Knicks, who led by 21, lose to Pistons

Tobias Harris scored 31 points, including 22 in the second half, as the Pistons overcame a 21-point Knicks lead to take a 111-107 decision at Madison Square Garden. It marked just the second time in Harris’s seven seasons in the NBA that he has scored 20 points in a half. The other instance also came against the Knicks—he scored 23 points in the first half on March 11 of this year.

The comeback win was only Detroit’s second from a deficit of 20-or-more points over the last 10 seasons; the other came on Dec. 18, 2013 at Boston, also from a 21-point hole. For the Knicks, it marked the first time that they have lost a game after leading by 20-plus points since a 112-103 loss to the Timberwolves in Minneapolis on Nov. 12, 2010, in which New York had led by 21 points. (We can hear the wise guys: Well, just how many times had the Knicks even led by 20 points since that 2010 loss in Minnesota? Your answer: 89, with the 89th resulting in Saturday night’s loss.)

Magic shocks Cavs with convincing win

The visiting Magic victimized the Cavaliers with eight three-point field goals in the first quarter and never trailed en route to a 114-93 win over the defending Eastern Conference champions. It marked the most three-pointers that Orlando has hit in one quarter in nearly eight years, since it hit eight in the third quarter of a game against the Knicks on Dec. 2, 2009.

Orlando led, 30-10, at one point of the first quarter, marking just the sixth time in the 1064 regular-season games in which LeBron James has played that his team trailed by as many as 20 points during the first quarter. The 21-point margin represented the largest home loss that any of LeBron’s teams have ever absorbed over the first 10 games of a season during his 15 years as a pro.

Giannis scores 44, including a winning dunk

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored a career-high 44 points, the last two of which came on a go-ahead dunk with 11 seconds remaining, as the Bucks defeated the visiting Trail Blazers, 113-110. That was the highest-scoring game by a Bucks player since Brandon Jennings poured in 55 points in a 129-125 victory over the Warriors (in the ninth game of Stephen Curry’s career) on Nov. 14, 2009. It was the 41st time in Bucks history that one of their players scored as many as 44 points in a game; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar produced more than 70 percent of those games, and still holds a comfortable 29-12 lead over all other Bucks players in the history of the franchise combined.

Gasol ties a couple of records as Grizzlies top champs

Marc Gasol contributed 34 points and 14 rebounds during the Grizzlies’ 111-101 triumph over the visiting Warriors, with 16 of those points coming from the free-throw line. In fact, Gasol missed his first free-throw attempt of the game, but connected on his remaining 16 attempts. That tied a couple of franchise records: Most free throws made in a game (Shareef Abdur-Rahim twice made 16 in a game, both times in February of 1999, and Gasol made 16 in a game in December 2015), and most consecutive free-throw attempts made in a game (Gasol was 16-for-16 in that 2015 game).

Spurs win with (gasp) only one 3-point FG

LaMarcus Aldridge took game honors with 28 points as the Spurs came away the 87-77 winners in Chicago. San Antonio’s victory was markedly old-school, as the team made only one three-point field goal attempt (in 12 attempts). In the 1230 games played during the 2016-17 NBA regular season, only three times did a team go through a game making no more than one three-pointer, and only one of those teams emerged victorious. On Dec. 10, 2016, the Bulls defeated the Heat, 105-100, despite making only one of eight three-point shots.

Clippers score 130 on Suns

The Clippers had little trouble dispatching the Suns on Saturday evening, taking a 130-88 victory at the Staples Center. It was the second win in two games for the Clippers, and the third loss in three games for the Suns, who had previously lost, 124-76, to the Trail Blazers and by a 132-130 score to the Lakers. Yes, 386 points is quite a hefty total for a team to allow over a season’s first three games, and it is the highest first-three-games total allowed by any NBA team in the last 27 seasons. But it’s a far cry from the record. In the 1990-91 season, the Nuggets allowed 447 points over the season’s first three games, losing by scores of 162-158, 140-110 and 145-135!

DeRozan scores 30 as Raptors win handily

DeMar DeRozan scored only 11 points in the Raptors’ 117-100 season-opening victory over the Bulls on Thursday night—a rather surprising total for someone who averaged 27.3 points per game last season, fifth-best in the NBA. In fact, it was the lowest total produced by any of last season’s top 20 scorers in their season-opening games this season (not counting Isaiah Thomas and Kawhi Leonard, who did not play in the openers for their respective teams).

But in game two on Saturday night, DeRozan led all scorers on both teams with 30 points as Toronto cruised to a 128-94 victory over the visiting 76ers. Fourteen of those points came from the free-throw line, a familiar area for DeRozan, whose total of 1100 made free throws over the past two seasons ranked third in the NBA behind only James Harden (1466) and Russell Westbrook (1175). Toronto tied its highest single-game points total ever achieved in 85 games against Philadelphia; the Raptors had scored 128 points against the 76ers in 2005 and 2010, the latter in an overtime contest.

Lundqvist celebrates milestone with victory

Henrik Lundqvist became the 20th goaltender in NHL history to play 750 regular-season games when he made 23 saves to lead the Rangers to a 4-2 win over the Predators on Saturday. Lundqvist, who has spent his entire NHL career with the Rangers, is the third goaltender in league history to play 750 or more games for one team, joining Martin Brodeur (1259 games for New Jersey) and Tony Esposito (873 games for Chicago). What’s remarkable about Lundqvist is how consistently good his numbers have been when you break his career down into 250-game segments. In his first 250 games: 132-78-34 record, 19 shutouts, 2.32 GAA; his next 250 games: 136-90-23, 24 shutouts, 2.20 GAA; and his last 250 games: 139-84-21, 19 shutouts, 2.45 GAA.

Stamkos & Kucherov maintain their streaks

Steven Stamkos racked up four points and Nikita Kucherov added three as the Lightning routed the Penguins, 7-1, in Tampa. Stamkos and Kucherov have both produced at least one point in each of the Lightning’s nine games this season, becoming the first pair of NHL teammates to begin a season with nine-game point streaks since the Blues’ Doug Weight and Pavol Demitra did so in 2001-02.

Tampa Bay’s six-goal margin of victory on Saturday was the team’s largest ever in a win against a defending Stanley Cup champion, eclipsing the Bolts’ 6-1 home-ice victory over the Bruins on March 13, 2012.

Big comeback win for Sabres

Ryan O’Reilly’s goal at the 2:59 mark of overtime capped the Sabres’ comeback from a three-goal deficit and lifted Buffalo to a 5-4 win at Boston. The Sabres trailed, 4-1, with less than four minutes remaining in the second period, but goals by Jack Eichel, Benoit Pouliot and Evander Kane sent the game to extra time. Excluding games decided by a shootout, this was the first time that the Sabres won a road game in which they trailed by three goals since Feb. 14, 2004, when they won, 6-4, at Toronto after having trailed by a 3-0 score in the second period. Saturday’s game was only the second non-shootout comeback win of three goals or larger for the Sabres in Boston. They won, 6-5, in overtime at Boston Garden on Jan. 21, 1989, with Pierre Turgeon scoring the winner for Buffalo in a game in which the Bruins jumped out to a 4-0 lead.

Karlsson: another 3-assist game, this time in a win

Erik Karlsson assisted on three goals for the Senators in their 6-3 win over the Maple Leafs on Saturday, after doing the same in Ottawa’s overtime loss to the Devils on Thursday. Karlsson is the second NHL player credited with three-or-more assists in each of two consecutive team games this season, with Evegeny Kuznetsov having done so in the Capitals’ first two games (Oct. 5-7). Karlsson is the first NHL defenseman with back-to-back three-assist games in one season since Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman in 2014 (Jan. 23-25) and the second defenseman in Senators history with consecutive three-assist games. Filip Kuba had two straight three-assist games for Ottawa in November 2009.

Who you gonna call? Wayne Simmonds!

Wayne Simmonds put in a tie-breaking goal with 2:15 remaining in the third period to lift the Flyers to a 2-1 win over the Oilers. It was the Flyers’ fifth win this season, and Simmonds scored the winning goal in four of those five victories. The only other players in Flyers history to be credited with the game-winning goal in four of the team’s first five wins of a season were Reggie Leach in 1981-82 and Brian Propp in 1982-83.

Two for Lee as Isles top Sharks

Anders Lee scored a pair of goals for the Islanders in their 5-3 win against the Sharks. It was the first two-goal game this season for Lee, who produced eight multiple-goal games last season, tying Sidney Crosby, Nikita Kucherov and Jeff Skinner for second-most in the NHL, behind Brad Marchand with nine. Lee’s eight multi-goal games in 2016-17 were the most in one season by an Islanders player since Mark Parrish delivered eight in 2001-02.

Hat trick, but no victory, for Couture

Logan Couture scored all of the Sharks’ goals in their 5-3 loss to the Islanders in Brooklyn. It was the second hat trick of Couture’s NHL career and the third hat trick in Sharks history in which the player scored every goal for San Jose. The other “score ‘em all” hat tricks for the Sharks were by Alexei Yegorov in a 5-3 loss at Calgary on Feb. 20, 1996, and Scott Thornton in a 3-3 tie at Florida on March 7, 2001.

Kopitar leads Kings

Anze Kopitar scored two goals and assisted on one for the Kings in their 6-4 win at Columbus. It was Kopitar’s second two-goal game this season and the 30th multiple-goal game of an NHL career spent entirely with the Kings. Kopitar is the eighth player with 30 or more multiple-goal games for the Kings but he’s the only one who debuted with the team after Wayne Gretzky was traded to Los Angeles by Edmonton in 1988. Kopitar has produced at least two points in four of the Kings’ seven games this season. Last season, Kopitar didn’t register his first multiple-point game until December 1 (in his 19th game) and he didn’t get his fourth multi-point game until January 14 (in his 38th game).

Call Jim Cantore: Bishop can stop Hurricanes

The Stars’ Ben Bishop improved his career record against the Hurricanes to 8-1-1 with a 36-save 4-3 win in Dallas on Saturday. Bishop’s .850 career points percentage against the Hurricanes is the highest among active NHL goaltenders who have played at least ten games against Carolina. Washington’s Braden Holtby stands second with an 11-4-0 (.733) record against the ’Canes.

Reimer earns win on a busy night

Panthers goaltender James Reimer made 41 saves in his 4-1 win in Washington. Reimer is the first Florida netminder to win a road game in which he made more than 40 saves and gave up no more than one goal since Jacob Markstrom turned aside 44 shots in a 3-1 victory over the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on March 21, 2013. It was Reimer’s first such win since Dec. 10, 2014, when he made 41 saves in a 2-1 shootout victory for the Maple Leafs in Detroit.