Valiant effort by Valanciunas
Jonas Valanciunas singlehandedly outproduced the Bucks in the third quarter, helping the Raptors pull away in their 129–110 triumph at Milwaukee. Valanciunas scored 20 points in the third quarter while also securing nine of his team’s 18 rebounds in the period. Meanwhile the Bucks as a team scored 19 points and grabbed just three boards over that same span. The last player before Valanciunas to outscore and outrebound an opposing team in a single quarter was Luis Scola, who racked up 14 points and eight rebounds in the fourth quarter against the Lakers on March 18, 2013 in Phoenix (Los Angeles had 10 points and seven rebounds in that period).
Big numbers for Beal this week
Bradley Beal scored a game-high 34 points while chipping in five assists to help the Wizards defeat the Grizzlies in Memphis. Beal has produced 100 points and 20 assists over the Wizards’ last three games, all won by Washington. The only other player in Wizards franchise history to total at least 100 points and 20 assists over a span of three games, all wins, was Gilbert Arenas, who did that for Washington in February 2006 and again in December 2006. Three players besides Beal have achieved that feat this season, with James Harden compiling multiple three-game spans of that kind and both Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant doing so once.
Ginobili serves Suns some grandpa juice
Manu Ginobili scored 21 points off the bench in under 20 minutes of action for the Spurs in their 103–89 victory over the Suns. The 40-year-old Ginobili became the second-oldest player in NBA history to score at least 20 points off the bench in a game. The first quadragenarian to achieve that feat did so less than two weeks earlier. On Dec. 27, 2017, 40-year-old Vince Carter racked up 24 points off the bench to lead the Kings in scoring in their win over the Cavaliers.
Towns dominates in Boston
Karl-Anthony Towns put up huge numbers for the Timberwolves in a losing effort at Boston, posting 25 points and 23 rebounds. The 22-year-old Towns became the youngest player to produce a 20-point/20-rebound game against the Celtics in Boston. Hall-of-Famer Walt Bellamy was also 22 years old (though 79 days older than Towns as of Friday) at the time of his 33-point/25-rebound performance for the Chicago Packers on Dec. 1, 1961 at Boston Garden. Two other players had a 20–20 game against the Celtics at Boston before their 23rd birthdays: Clyde Lee in 1967 and Charles Barkley in 1986. There was one more thing those four performances had in common besides the players’ ages and statlines: Boston came away victorious in all four contests.
Dallas done in by Dunn
Two days after scoring two points in a loss to the Raptors, Kris Dunn exploded for a career-high 32 points at Dallas to help the Bulls snap their three-game losing streak. Dunn became the fourth player this season to score 30 or more points in a game after scoring two or fewer points in his previous game, joining Anthony Davis (30 points on October 28), Karl-Anthony Towns (31 on November 4), and DeMar DeRozan (30 on November 29). All of those players scored exactly two points in the game immediately preceding their 30-point efforts. The only other Bulls player in the last 10 seasons to achieve that feat was C.J. Watson, who followed a two-point game with a 33-point performance on Nov. 26, 2010 at Denver.
Ellington firing away from downtown
Wayne Ellington poured in 24 points off the bench to lead the Heat in scoring in Miami’s overtime victory over the Knicks. Of Ellington’s 19 field-goal attempts on Friday, 16 came from behind the arc, tying a season-high for most three-point attempts in a game by any player that came off the bench (Nikola Mirotic had 16 three-point attempts for the Bulls on December 29).
Friday’s game was no anomaly for Ellington, considering 265 of his 309 shots from the field this season, or nearly 86 percent, have come from downtown. Since the NBA first instituted the three-point line in 1979–80, only one player finished a season with at least 300 field-goal attempts and at least 85 percent of those shots coming from three-point range. In the 2012–13 season, 87 percent of Shane Battier’s 362 shots from the floor came from long distance. In a related story, Battier shot more accurately on three-pointers that season (43 percent) than two-pointers (35 percent).
Philly’s process includes time off for starters
An early 15–0 run by the 76ers set the tone in Philadelphia’s 114–78 victory over the Pistons. All five of the 76ers starters reached double-digits in points on Friday night despite logging fewer than 25 minutes on the court; Joel Embiid led the starting five in points with 23 and playing time with 24:31. The last time a team’s starting five all produced at least 10 points in a game while playing no more than 25 minutes was on Nov. 12, 1991. On that day, the Blazers finished the first half of their game with a 63–26 lead over the Nuggets, leading to a short night for Portland’s starting five who each scored 10 or more points and played fewer than 25 minutes.
Lyles stings former mates with career night
Trey Lyles scored a career-high 26 points against his former team, helping the Nuggets beat the Jazz, 99–91. Lyles and Jamal Murray, who also scored 26 points for Denver on Friday, became the third pair of teammates in the last three weeks to score 25 points in a game against the Jazz. James Harden and Eric Gordon did that versus the Jazz on December 18, as did Russell Westbrook and Paul George at Utah on December 23.
Back to Lyles, who is now one of seven active players to achieve his highest point total (or match a career-high) in a game against the Jazz. The other active players that did so consist of Damian Lillard (59 points), James Harden (56), Kemba Walker (52), Paul George (48), Al Horford (34), and Cedi Osman (10).
Home not so sweet for Lakers
The Lakers fell behind early on Friday and never recovered, dropping a 108–94 decision to the Hornets in Los Angeles. The Lakers are now 6–14 at home this season, marking the third time in the last four seasons that they lost at least 14 of their first 20 home games of a season. L.A. started 6–14 at home in 2014–15 and 5–15 the following season. The Lakers had not started a season in that fashion in any of their first 66 seasons in the league.
The Lakers’ 47–96 (.329) home record since the start of the 2014–15 season is the second-worst in the NBA over that span, ahead of only the 76ers (45–96, .319).
Pair of rookies propel Penguins to victory
Rookie Daniel Sprong scored his first two goals of the season and fellow rookie Tristan Jarry posted his second NHL shutout when the Penguins beat the Islanders, 4–0, on Friday. This was the third game in franchise history in which a rookie goaltender recorded a shutout for the Penguins and a rookie skater scored at least two goals. The previous two instances were both 2–0 wins for Pittsburgh: on Feb. 1, 1968 versus the Blues, with Les Binkley getting the shutout and Bob Rivard scoring both goals, and March 12, 2006, when Marc-Andre Fleury blanked the Flyers and Colby Armstrong scored twice.
Crosby owns Islanders
Sidney Crosby tallied one goal and three assists in the Penguins’ 4–0 win over the Islanders in Brooklyn. Crosby has scored at least four points in a regular-season game 31 times in his NHL career and more than one-quarter of those four-point games (eight) have been against the Islanders! The Rangers (four times) are the only other NHL team he’s had more than two four-point games against. Crosby’s eight games with four points or more versus the Islanders are the second-most by any player, behind Mario Lemieux with 11.
Overtime settled quickly for Senators and Sharks
Matt Duchene’s goal seven seconds into overtime earned the Ottawa Senators a 6–5 win against the San Jose Sharks, who led 5–2 heading into the third period. Duchene shattered the Senators franchise record for the quickest overtime goal in a regular-season game, which until Friday had been 28 seconds by Radek Bonk versus the Bruins on March 11, 2003. This was the third time in franchise history that the Senators won a game in which they trailed by three goals in the third period. Ottawa’s two other comeback wins of that kind were a 7–6 overtime victory at Winnipeg on Nov. 5, 1993, and a 5–4 shootout win against the Rangers in New York on Oct. 29, 2011.
This was the second straight Ottawa game decided by a quick overtime goal. On Wednesday in Detroit, the Red Wings beat the Senators, 2–1, on Andreas Athanasiou’s goal at the six-second mark of overtime. The 2017–18 Senators are the first team in NHL history to play two consecutive regular-season games decided by a sudden-death goal in the first ten seconds of overtime. In fact, they’re the first NHL team to have two straight regular-season games decided in the first 20 seconds of sudden-death overtime.
Howard soaring for Red Wings
Jimmy Howard extended his winning streak to four games with a 4–2 victory for the Red Wings against the Panthers on Friday. Howard has allowed only one or two goals in each of his last four games. He’s the first Detroit goaltender to win four consecutive games in one season while giving up no more than two goals in each game since Petr Mrazek had a four-game streak two years ago (Jan. 4–14, 2016). This is the longest such winning streak for Howard since his four-game skein from March 29 through April 8, 2014.
Golden Knights overcome another late deficit
The Golden Knights took a 3–1 lead in their game at Chicago only to fall behind, 4–3, in the first minute of the third period, but they tied the score on a goal by Cody Eakin and won, 5–4, thanks to Reilly Smith’s tiebreaking goal with just over six minutes remaining in regulation time. This was the third time that the Golden Knights won a game in 60 minutes after trailing in the third period, having previously done so at Dallas (Oct. 6, in the first game in franchise history) and at Anaheim (Nov. 22). Vegas is tied with Florida and Minnesota for the most third-period comeback regulation wins by an NHL team this season, and the Golden Knights are the only team with more than one such win on the road.
Wheeler keeps turning out goals
Blake Wheeler extended his goal streak to four games when he scored on a second-period power play for the Jets in their 4–3 win against the Sabres. This is Wheeler’s longest goal streak in one season since he scored in each of Winnipeg’s final five games in 2015–16. He also scored in four consecutive games for the Jets in March 2012. Wheeler’s three goal-scoring streaks of at least four games for the Jets are the most by any player since the Atlanta Thrashers relocated to Winnipeg in 2011. Dustin Byfuglien, Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlkers have each had two such streaks for the Jets.