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BULLS WIN WITH LATE COMEBACK
From Elias: The Bulls trailed the Pacers, 98-88, with less than four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter on Saturday, but they outscored Indiana, 16-1, the rest of the way and escaped with a series-opening home victory. It was the first time since 2004 that an NBA team had won a playoff game in which it overcame a double-digit deficit with less than four minutes left in the fourth quarter. How long ago was that? The playoff game in question was played between the Timberwolves and the Kings! In that game, played on May 8, 2004, Minnesota trailed, 88-78, with four minutes to go, but outscored Sacramento, 16-1, over the last four minutes to win, 94-89.
ROSE LEADS BULLS IN GAME ONE
From Elias: Derrick Rose scored 39 points and connected on 19 of 21 free-throw attempts in the Bulls' Game One win over the Pacers. That was the highest total of free throws that an NBA player had made in a playoff game since Kobe Bryant sank 21 of 23 foul shots in a victory over Utah in 2008.
Had Rose been less proficient in getting to or producing from the foul line, his three-point shooting might have weighed more heavily. Only two other players have taken as many as nine three-point field-goal attempts in an NBA playoff game without hitting any: Rashard Lewis went 0-for-9 for the Magic against the Raptors in 2008, and John Starks infamously went 0-for-11 from beyond the arc in Game Seven of the 1994 Finals as the Knicks lost to the Rockets.
HAWKS' BALANCE BEATS MAGIC's 2-MAN GAME
From Elias: The Hawks had five players who scored 13-or-more points and made at least half of their shots from the floor - Joe Johnson (25 points; 9-of-16 shooting), Jamal Crawford (23 points; 7-of-14), Al Horford (16 points; 7-of-14), Josh Smith (15 points; 6-of-12), and Kirk Hinrich (13 points; 6-of-10). It's the first time in their last 199 playoff games that the Hawks have had five players with such numbers; the last quintet to do it consisted of Richie Guerin, Cliff Hagan, Zelmo Beaty, Bill Bridges and Joe Caldwell in a 131-127 win for the St. Louis Hawks over the Lakers, back on April 13, 1966.
HOWARD & NELSON ARE NOT ENOUGH
From Elias: Dwight Howard (46) and Jameer Nelson (27) combined for 73 points, but their teammates scored only 20, and the Magic fell to the balanced scoring of the Hawks, 103-93. It was the eighth playoff game in NBA history in which two players combined to score at least 75 percent of their team's points, but only one of those teams has come up a winner. That was the first such game, on April 8, 1950, when George Mikan scored 37 points and Jim Pollard added 14 in the Minneapolis Lakers' 68-66 win over the Nationals in Syracuse in Game One of the NBA Finals. In none of the seven other NBA playoff games in which two teammates combined for 75 percent of their team's points did the two players combine for as many as 73 points.
Howard had 19 rebounds to supplement his 46 points, and he became the first player to collect that many points and rebounds in a regulation-length NBA playoff game since Bob McAdoo had 50 points and 21 rebounds for the Buffalo Braves in a win over the Washington Bullets on April 18, 1975. Only Wilt Chamberlain ever had as many as 46 points and 19 rebounds in a regulation-length NBA playoff loss (and the Big Dipper lost three such games)!
KIDD PLAYING LIKE A KID AGAIN
From Elias: Jason Kidd scored 20 points in a game only twice during the recently-concluded regular season; his high was 21 points in a win over the Lakers on January 19. But Kidd poured in 24 points, including six three-pointers, in the Mavericks' Game One victory over the Trail Blazers.
Kidd, 38, became the oldest guard in NBA history to have a playoff game scoring 20-or-more points and to have that total exceed his high game during that regular season. And he became the oldest player in NBA history to make at least six three-point field goals in a playoff game; he broke the mark of Reggie Miller, who hit six in a game against the Nets at the age of 36 in 2002.
NOWITZKI TIES JORDAN's RECORD
From Elias: Dirk Nowitzki made all 13 of his free-throw attempts in the fourth quarter of the Mavericks' Game One win over Portland, tying the NBA playoff record for free throws made in one quarter. Michael Jordan made 13 free throws in one quarter in a 105-97 win over the Pistons en route to the Bulls' first championship in 1991.
BOSH & JAMES GO 20/10 IN FIRST PLAYOFF GAME WITH HEAT
From Elias: Chris Bosh had 25 points and 12 rebounds and LeBron James had 21 points and 14 rebounds as the Heat defeated the 76ers in Game One. Bosh and James were both appearing in their first playoff game with Miami. No other pair of teammates, each of whom had played the previous season for a different NBA team, had ever produced 20/10 totals (points/rebounds) in their first playoff game with a given team.
DAMON'S 5TH STRAIGHT GAME-WINNING RBI
From Elias: Johnny Damon's walk-off RBI gave the Rays their fifth straight victory, by a 4-3 score over the Twins, and in each of those games, Damon has produced the game-winning RBI (that is, he drove in the run that put his team ahead to stay). Damon started his streak with a first-inning home run at Fenway Park on Monday, and his fifth-inning single put the Rays ahead to stay of Tuesday. Then, against the Twins, he had a walk-off 10th-inning homer on Thursday and a sixth-inning RBI single on Friday before his two-out game-winning hit on Saturday.
Since the game-winning RBI was introduced in 1979, Damon is just the third major-league player to have a five-game streak of them. Troy Glaus holds the record: he had game-winners in six straight games for the Angels in 2002, en route to the team's only world championship. And in 1986, Kirk Gibson had a streak of five straight game-winners for the Tigers.
BECKETT'S 2ND STRAIGHT SHUTDOWN START
From Elias: Josh Beckett was dominant for the second straight start as he led the Red Sox to a 4-1 win over the Blue Jays, limiting the visitors to one run and three hits while fanning nine batters over seven innings. Last Sunday, he blanked the Yankees for eight innings, allowing two hits and one walk while striking out 10 batters. No major-league pitcher all last season won consecutive starts in which he went at least seven innings, struck out at least nine batters, allowing no more than three hits or one run; CC Sabathia, in August 2009, was the last major-leaguer to do it.
The only other Red Sox pitchers ever to put together two consecutive starts of that nature are Pedro Martinez (in 1999 and a three-start streak in 2002), Roger Clemens (four times between 1986 and 1992) and Cy Young (in 1905).
GARCIA's WIN A FIRST FOR YANKEES
From Elias: Freddy Garcia, in his first start with the Yankees, threw six scoreless innings to earn a victory over the Rangers. Saturday's win was the 9,560th for the Yankees since the franchise was established in New York in 1903 (it has also won 218 postseason games), but it was the first of those won by a pitcher who was born in Venezuela.
Not only did Garcia became the first Venezuelan-born pitcher ever to win a game for the Yankees, but he surpassed the injured star across town, Johan Santana, for the most major-league career wins (134) by a Venezuelan-born pitcher. And to boot, Garcia's catcher on Saturday was none other than Gustavo Molina (making his Yankees debut), who was... all together now... born in Venezuela!
ROYALS SHARE BEST RECORD IN A.L.
From Elias: Sean O'Sullivan defeated King Felix as the Royals blanked the Mariners, 7-0, lifting Kansas City's won-lost record to 10-4. With the Rangers losing to the Yankees, the Royals now share the American League's best record with the Rangers and the Indians. It's the first day that the Royals have owned at least a share of their league's best record, this many games into a season, since April 24, 2003, when for one day, they paced the American League with a 16-3 record. Prior to that day, you have to go back to May 16, 1989 to find the next most recent case.
CUBS FANS LAST SAW THIS 50 YEARS AGO
From Elias: Starlin Castro went 4-for-5 and hit a home run in the Cubs' 8-3 victory over the Rockies in Denver. The 21-year-old shortstop became the first Cubs player to get four hits and a home run in a game before his 22nd birthday since Ron Santo had two such games at age 21, both against the Reds (and one in which he hit a pair of homers), both in June of 1961.
CHATWOOD WINS HIS FIRST
From Elias: Tyler Chatwood went seven strong for his first major-league victory as the Angels took a rain-delayed 7-2 decision from the White Sox. Chatwood, at the age of 21 years, 121 days, is the youngest starting pitcher to win his first big-league game for the Angels since April 26, 1981, when Mike Witt, a bit less than three months shy of his 21st birthday, threw a two-hitter against the Twins for his maiden victory.
KEY HITS CONTINUE TO LIFT INDIANS
From Elias: Orlando Cabrera, Travis Buck and Matt LaPorta each had a pair of hits with runners on base and the Indians rolled over the Orioles, 8-3. The key hits lifted Cleveland's batting average with runners on base to .321, highest in the American League.
FRANCISCO & HERNANDEZ END REDS' BASES-LOADED DROUGHT
From Elias: Juan Francisco's fifth-inning bases-loaded single on Saturday broke a 2-2 tie and gave the Reds a one-run lead over the Pirates. Ramon Hernandez followed him to the plate and broke the game open with a grand-slam home run, the biggest blow in Cincinnati's 11-2 victory.
Prior to Francisco's at-bat, Cincinnati had been 0-for-14 with the bases loaded this season (the most hitless at-bats in those situations by any major-league team, and the longest start-of-season streak by any big-league team over the past four years). For Hernandez, it was the sixth grand-slam homer of his career, even though his career batting average with the bases full is only .223, second-lowest among the 63 active big-leaguers with at least 100 bases-loaded at-bats. Miguel Cabrera leads that group at .439; Jason Varitek brings up the rear at .213.
BRAVES FINALLY GO ERNIE BANKS ON US
From Elias: The struggling Braves (seven losses in their last nine games, entering the day) swept the reeling Mets (now owners of a seven-game losing streak), 4-2 and 4-0, in a Saturday doubleheader. It was the Mets' second doubleheader in three days, but the Braves had not played two games in one day (either single-admission or split-admission) since splitting a single-admission doubleheader with the Mets at Shea Stadium on Sept. 13, 2008. The 350 games played between doubleheaders is the Braves' longest span without playing two games since they went 484 games without playing two in a day from 1876, when the franchise (and major league baseball) began until they played their first doubleheader, at Detroit, on July 4, 1882.
THAT'S ONE SMALL STEP FOR METS...
From Elias: The Mets have lost seven games in a row, including a pair of doubleheaders within three days, but there is incremental good news: In the second game of Saturday's doubleheader, Terry Collins used only three pitchers (the first game this season in which he has employed fewer than four pitchers). So the Mets merely tied, but did not break, the Nationals' major-league record, set two years ago, of 14 consecutive games from the start of a season using four-or-more pitchers.
BRIERE'S SPECIALTY: THE PLAYOFF GAME-WINNER
From Elias: Danny Briere, who formerly played for the Sabres, scored the game-winning goal in the Flyers' 5-4 victory over Buffalo, evening the first-round series at one game apiece. It was Briere's eighth game-winning goal in the playoffs since he left the Sabres to sign with the Flyers as a free agent four years ago. Briere's total of eight playoff game-winners since 2008 stands second in the league, behind the nine by the Red Wings' Johan Franzen. In fact, Briere has a total of only 10 game-winners in regular-season play for the Flyers over the last four seasons.
RED WINGS: 4 GOALS; DATSYUK: 4 POINTS
From Elias: Pavel Datsyuk scored the first goal and assisted on the next three as the Red Wings opened up a 4-0 lead before the second period was two minutes old, and then held on for a 4-3 win over the Coyotes. It was the first four-point playoff game of Datsyuk's NHL career. Datsyuk has scored four or more points in a game nine times in regular-season play, and three of the nine instances came against the Coyotes: a five-point game in January 2007, and four-point games in March 2003 and February 2007.
DOUGHTY SCORES TWICE, NOW HAS 5 GOALS IN 8 PLAYOFF GAMES
From Elias: Drew Doughty scored two more goals for the Kings in their 4-0 win at San Jose, lifting his career total to five goals in just eight NHL playoff games. No other defenseman in the NHL's modern era (since the red line was introduced in the 1943-44 season) has scored five goals over his first eight playoff games. Paul Coffey (1981) and Moe Mantha (1982-84) each scored four goals over their first eight NHL playoff games.
CANADIENS AGAIN SCORE TWICE EARLY vs. THOMAS
From Elias: The Canadiens took a 2-0 lead in the first 2:20 in Game Two against the Bruins on goals by Mike Cammalleri and Mathieu Darche, and went on to a 3-1 victory. It was only the second time in the last 20 years that Montreal scored two goals in the first five minutes of a playoff game. The other instance was in the Canadiens' first playoff game in 2008, against the same team (Boston) and goaltender (Tim Thomas) victimized on Saturday night; in that 2008 game, the Kostitsyn brothers, Sergei and Andrei, scored goals to give Montreal a 2-0 lead after only 2:02 had been played.