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CLEVELAND SWEEPS SECOND STRAIGHT SERIES
The Cavaliers swept their second straight series, disposing of the Hawks with an 84-74 win in Atlanta. Cleveland extended its NBA playoff record by winning its eighth straight game, each by a double-digit margin. The Cavaliers were the only team to fashion such a streak during the regular season, winning nine consecutive games by a margin of at least ten points from Nov. 22 through Dec. 9.
The Cavaliers were the seventh team in NBA history to sweep consecutive best-of-seven series in the same year. LeBron James's 32.9 PPG average during the playoffs is the second-highest ever posted by an NBA player over the course of consecutive four-game sweeps. Kobe Bryant averaged 34.1 PPG for the Lakers while sweeping the Kings and Spurs in 2001.
NOWITZKI OUTDUELS ANTHONY
Dirk Nowitzki scored 44 points and had 13 rebounds as the Mavericks avoided elimination by defeating the Nuggets, 119-117. Nowitzki and Carmelo Anthony (41 PTS, 11 REB) were the third pair of players in NBA playoff history to each score 40+ points and grab 10+ rebounds in the same game. The others: Jerry West (41/10) and Elgin Baylor (45/17) as Lakers teammates (vs. Detroit in 1962); Michael Jordan (42/12) and Charles Barkley (42/13), Bulls vs. Suns in 1993.
A HIGH SCORING NIGHT IN THE NHL PLAYOFFS
There were 21 goals scored in the two NHL playoff games on Monday night: Washington's 5-4 overtime win at Pittsburgh that kept the Capitals alive, and Chicago's 7-5 series-clinching victory over Vancouver. There have been only three other days in NHL postseason history in which exactly two games were played and at least 21 goals were scored. Before Monday the last instance was on April 25, 1989, when 22 goals were scored as the Penguins beat the Flyers, 10-7, and the Canadiens beat the Bruins, 3-2.
VARLAMOV KEEPS CAPITALS ALIVE
The Capitals forced a decisive seventh game with a 5-4 overtime win at Pittsburgh as Simeon Varlamov won his fourth potential elimination game of the playoffs. Varlamov is one of seven goaltenders to win each of the first four career playoff starts in which his team faced elimination, and he's the first to do so as a rookie since Chico Resch won each of his first seven for the Islanders in 1975.
Washington had lost its previous seven playoff games that went to overtime. That was one game shy of the longest such streak in NHL history: eight consecutive OT losses for the Flyers (1996-2000) and Flames (1991-2004).
BLACKHAWKS ADVANCE WITH KANE HAT TRICK
Patrick Kane scored three goals for the Blackhawks as they eliminated the Canucks with a 7-5 win. It was the first postseason hat trick for the Blackhawks since 1994 (Gary Suter vs. Toronto) and the first for Chicago in a series-clinching victory since 1989 (Wayne Presley vs. Detroit).
SANTANA: NO EARNED RUNS ALLOWED IN LOSS, AGAIN!
The Braves beat Johan Santana by taking advantage of New York's failures on defense and a sub-par performance by its bullpen. Santana is 4-2 with a 0.78 ERA in seven starts this season and he didn't allow an earned run in either of his losses. The only other starting pitcher in the majors to lose a game this season in which he wasn't charged with an earned run is Ted Lilly (April 22).
Santana is the 14th pitcher since 1913 (the first season that earned runs were officially tracked in both leagues) to post an ERA below 0.80 through his first seven starts of a season, including Zack Greinke (0.51) this season and Cliff Lee (0.67) last year. Santana is the first NL pitcher to do it since Fernando Valenzuela (0.29) in 1981. But Santana is only the third of those 14 pitchers to lose at least two of his first seven starts. The others were Dutch Leonard (4-2, 0.42) for the Red Sox in 1914 and Dana Fillingim (5-2, 0.29) for the 1918 Boston Braves.
ZIMMERMAN EXTENDS HITTING STREAK TO 29 GAMES
Ryan Zimmerman's hitting streak reached 29 games on Monday night at San Francisco. It's the longest hitting streak for a third baseman since George Brett hit safely in 30 straight games for the Royals in 1980. Zimmerman's streak is the longest by a National Leaguer who played primarily at third base during that stretch since Pete Rose's 44-game streak in 1978. Rose hit safely in 42 games as a third baseman during that streak, with hits as a left fielder in the 7th and 18th games. If you want to get picky (and we do, just to give props to Ken Boyer), Zimmerman is the first NL player to hit safely in 29 straight games, all as a third baseman, since Boyer had a 29-game hitting streak for the Cardinals in 1959.
FIVE AND FLY FOR THE UNIT
Randy Johnson was credited with his 298th career victory when the Giants defeated the Nationals, but it was only Johnson's 12th win in a game that he started and pitched no more than five innings.
SIZEMORE SPARKS INDIANS' OFFENSE
Grady Sizemore singled and came around to score in a two-run first inning that set the tone for the Indians' 9-4 win over the White Sox. Sizemore has earned his way on base to lead off the first inning only six times (two hits, four walks) in 32 plate appearances this season (.188 on-base-percentage), but the Indians are 5-1 in those games, compared to 7-20 in other games.
TAVERAS GOES 5-FOR-5
Willy Taveras went 5-for-5 in the Reds romp in Arizona, but he never got a chance to become the first player since Walker Cooper in 1949 to get six hits in a game for the Reds. Taveras's night ended when Darnell McDonald was inserted as his defensive replacement in the bottom of the seventh inning. That spot in the order came up for the sixth time when McDonald grounded into a double play to end the top of the ninth.