Jun 3, 2019

Axios Sports

By Kendall Baker
Kendall Baker

👋 Happy Monday! The only thing better than reading Axios Sports is reading it on a brand new iPad Pro. We're giving away two this week. More details below on how to win. Today's word count: 1,331 (~5 mins).

Today's slate:

  • Live now: Sofia Kenin, the young American who knocked off Serena, just lost in the French Open Round of 16. Djokovic and Thiem play today for the men. Full schedule.
  • 7pm ET: 2019 MLB draft (mock draft)
  • 7:30pm: Oklahoma vs. UCLA, Women's College World Series Championship, Game 1 (preview)
  • 8pm: Bruins at Blues, Stanley Cup Final, Game 4 (preview)
1 big thing: 🏀 Golden State's embarrassment of riches

Photo: Kyle Terada/Pool/Getty Images

Following the Warriors' 109-104 win over the Raptors last night, Draymond Green said his team plays their best basketball when they feel "threatened," which is undeniably true.

  • Golden State's ability to overcome adversity is special, and it's something that has rung true throughout the playoffs. They get knocked down, but they get up again, you're never gonna get them down.
  • Yes, but: It's a lot easier to overcome adversity — and injuries, in particular — when you casually have one of the world's best big men waiting in the wings. How threatened can you really feel when your coach "makes an adjustment" and starts DeMarcus Cousins, a perennial All-Star?
  • The bottom line: Cousins was the difference last night, finishing with 11 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and two blocks. His performance was a testament to his work ethic and dedication to rehab, while ultimately serving as a reminder that the Warriors have an embarrassment of riches.

Quick-hitters:

  • Wild stat: The Warriors assisted on every made basket in the second half, and had 34 assists on 38 made baskets for the game. That's absurd.
  • My take so far: We're two games in, and I don't feel like I know anything about this series yet. I can't put my finger on exactly why that is, but it's fun and I think I love it.
  • Go deeper: Game 2's winners and losers
2. 🥊 Boxing's new king

Photo: Nick Potts/PA Images via Getty Images

Andy Ruiz Jr. etched his name in boxing history on Saturday night with a shocking seventh-round TKO of British sensation Anthony Joshua, making him the first Mexican fighter to win the world heavyweight title (highlights).

Why it matters: This was supposed to be a coming-out party for Joshua; a brand-building exercise designed to increase his American presence before his eventual showdown with Deontay Wilder in 2020 or 2021.

  • As for Ruiz, he only got this fight after Joshua's original opponent, Jarrell Miller, tested positive for PEDs. He literally sent an Instagram DM to Joshua's promoter to ask for this opportunity.
  • Talk about opposites: Joshua, with his chiseled physique and pearly whites, looks like he was invented in a lab. Ruiz eats Snickers before his fights and looks like the kid from "Up."

What happened: "This was not a fluke. ... It was a complete destruction," writes The Ringer's Kevin Clark. "Joshua looked sloppy. Ruiz swarmed. This is different from the great upsets in sports history. This is like if, in 'Hoosiers,' Hickory won by 50."

  • "Boxing can be beautiful. ... That's why great literary heroes have spent so much time on it. But sometimes ... it's not beautiful, it's just a huge guy named Andy absolutely knocking the snot out of a global sporting icon."

The big picture: This upset dampens some of the hype around Joshua fighting Wilder or fellow Brit Tyson Fury. But now that Ruiz has crashed the party, perhaps four heavyweight stars will lead to more drama than three ever could.

3. ⚾️ MLB: Where things stand entering June

So far, the 2019 MLB season belongs to Cody Bellinger. Photo: Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The most home run-infused May in the history of baseball came to a close this weekend. As we plunge into June, a brief recap of the action thus far.

Top 5 teams:

  1. Minnesota Twins (40-18)
  2. Los Angeles Dodgers (41-19)
  3. Houston Astros (40-20)
  4. New York Yankees (38-20)
  5. Tampa Bay Rays (35-22)

MLB leaders:

  • Batting average: Cody Bellinger, LAD (.376); Austin Meadows, TB (.357); Nolan Arenado, COL (.345)
  • HR: Christian Yelich, MIL (22); Cody Bellinger, LAD (20); Pete Alonso, NYM (19)
  • RBI: Josh Bell, PIT (53); Nolan Arenado, COL (52), Cody Bellinger, LAD (52)
  • ERA: Hyun-Jin Ryu, LAD (1.48); Jake Odorizzi, MIN (1.96); Zach Davies, MIL (2.20)
  • Strikeouts: Max Scherzer, WAS (117); Gerrit Cole, HOU (116); Justin Verlander, HOU (103)
  • Saves: Kirby Yates, SD (22); Shane Greene, DET (18); Kenley Janson, LAD/Aroldis Chapman, NYY (17)

By the numbers:

  • 1,135: The number of home runs hit in the month of May, a new record. There was a dinger hit every 25.0 at-bats.
  • 6,507: The number of home runs the league is on pace to hit this season (through Saturday), which would break the all-time record, set in 2017, by more than 400.
  • 3.31: The number of walks per game this season, the highest since 2009 (3.42).

Awards watch:

  • AL MVP: Mike Trout, LAA
  • AL Cy Young: Justin Verlander, HOU
  • AL ROY: Brandon Lowe, TB
  • NL MVP: Cody Bellinger, LAD
  • NL Cy Young: Hyun-jin Ryu, LAD
  • NL ROY: Pete Alonso, NYM
4. 📷 Photos 'round the world
Photo: Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND — After finishing second in a nail-biting Premier League season, Liverpool benefitted from an early (and questionable) handball in the box to beat Tottenham 2-0 and win their first Champions League title since 2005. Great recap.

Photo: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

DUBLIN, OHIO — Patrick Cantlay won the Memorial with an 8-under 64 on Sunday, the best closing round by a winner in the tournament's 44-year history. He had eight birdies, no bogeys and was so under control that his longest par putt was an eight-footer.

Photo: Octavio Passos/Getty Images

PORTO, PORTUGAL — Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja of Estonia raced their Toyota Yaris to a second consecutive World Rally Championship victory in an action-packed finale on Sunday.

Photo: Kelly Cestari/WSL via Getty Images

MARGARET RIVER, AUSTRALIA — The latest stop on the Word Surf League tour saw one competitor share a wave with a pod of dolphins and two surfers plucked from the water after a shark scare. Surfing, man.

5. 🥍 The PLL has officially arrived
Courtesy: PLL

The Premier Lacrosse League's inaugural season kicked off this weekend at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.

  • The intrigue: The PLL is using a tour-based model that will see its six teams — Archers, Atlas, Chaos, Chrome, Redwoods and Whipsnakes — play in a new city each weekend. A traveling lacrosse circus, if you will.

Scoreboard:

Best everything:

  • Best goal: Former Tar Heel Marcus Holman scored the goal of the weekend (above), which you've probably already watched three times. Here it is in real-time.
  • Best game-winners: Will Manny scored the OT game-winner for Archers (mic'd up replay) ... and Drew Snider scored the OT game-winner for Whipsnakes.
  • Best interview: Bill Belichick, who played lacrosse in college, was in attendance and actually responded to an interviewer's questions with full sentences.
  • Best use of technology: The NBC production was phenomenal. Coolest part: They interviewed players mid-game using a microphone in their helmets, literally seconds after they made key plays. This is the future.
  • Best "Hard Knocks" impression: The PLL training camp documentary (23 minutes) is a great way to get caught up on what this league is all about.

What's next: The PLL travels to Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J., next weekend for Week 2. Get your tickets.

  • Upcoming: Chicago (June 15–16); Baltimore (June 22-23); Atlanta (June 28–29); Washington, D.C. (July 6–7); Los Angeles, All-Star Game (July 21); San Jose (Aug 10–11).
6. June 3, 1972: 🎾 King notches career grand slam

Photo: Universal/VCG via Getty Images

47 years ago today, American tennis legend Billie Jean King won her first and only French Open title to clinch the career Grand Slam, something only 10 women have ever done.

  • Career grand slams: Maureen Connolly (accomplished at 18 years old), Doris Hart (28), Shirley Fry Irvin (29), Margaret Court (20), Billie Jean King (28), Chris Evert (27), Martina Navratilova (26), Steffi Graf (19), Serena Williams (21), Maria Sharapova (25).

Watch: King's final point at the 1972 French Open

7. 🏀 NBA trivia

Draymond Green's five triple-doubles (missed out on his sixth by one assist last night) are tied for the third-most in a single postseason in NBA history.

  • Question: Who are the only players with more?
  • Hint: They played for the same franchise roughly a decade apart.

Answer at the bottom.

8. The Ocho: 🏉 One school, two rugby titles

Photo: Jack Megaw

Both the men's and women's squads from Lindenwood University (Mo.) won their second consecutive rugby sevens titles at the Collegiate Rugby Championships in Philadelphia this weekend.

  • Details: The men beat Life University (Ga.) 21-12 in the final after knocking off Kutztown in the semis. The women beat Army 34-12 in the final after knocking off Life in the semis.
  • Past winners (men): Cal (2013-17), Dartmouth (2011-12), Utah (2010)
  • Past winners (women): Life (2016-17), Penn State (2013-15), Army (2011)

Go deeper.

9. 🎉 1 free thing: iPad Pro giveaway
Source: Apple

This week only, when you share Axios Sports using your unique referral link, both you and the person you referred will have a chance to win a new iPad Pro.

  • How it works: 1 referral = 1 raffle ticket (up to 10 tickets). The contest runs all week, so we'll unveil the winners on Friday.

Refer a friend.

10. 🎰 Make your picks!

Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Axios Pick 3 is powered by The Action Network, your one-stop shop for all things sports betting. The app's free. Download it.

1. Which team will score first in Game 4?

  • The Blues have scored first in 14 of their 22 playoff games, but the Bruins have drawn first blood in the past two games.

2. Will Blues center Jaden Schwartz score over or under 0.5 goals?

  • Schwartz has the second-most goals of any player this postseason (12), but he's scoreless in his past four games.

3. How many combined goals will be scored?

  • The over/under is currently 5.5.

🎰 PLAY NOW: Make your picks (cutoff: 8pm ET)

Kendall Baker

See you tomorrow,

Kendall "No, seriously, he looks identical to Russell from 'Up"" Baker

Trivia answer: Wilt Chamberlain (7) and Magic Johnson (6)