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Elias Says: Feb. 4, 2017

Celtics knock Lakers off top of the wins list

Once more the Celtics stand alone on top of the NBA’s all-time wins list. Boston earned its number one spot and the franchise’s 3253rd victory by dethroning the Lakers, who had occupied at least a share of the top of the wins list since the end of the 2000–01 season. Previously, the Celtics had held at least a share of the top spot in wins from November 1959 until early in the 2001–02 season when the Lakers took over sole possession of first place. The last team other than the Lakers or Celtics to hold the NBA’s wins mantle was the Knicks, early in the 1959–60 season.

Thomas finishing games like Kobe in his prime

Isaiah Thomas led the Celtics in scoring with 38 points, and, as usual, he saved his best for last, racking up 17 points in the fourth quarter alone. That marks the third consecutive game in which Thomas scored more than 15 points in the final quarter; he totaled 24 points in the fourth on January 30 versus the Pistons and 19 points in the fourth against the Raptors on February 1. In the last 15 seasons, the only other player to score at least 15 points in the fourth quarter in three consecutive games was Kobe Bryant. On Jan. 22, 2006 the future Hall-of-Famer poured in 81 points against the Raptors – the second-most points ever scored in a NBA game – and of those 81 points, 28 came in the fourth quarter. Bryant also had big fourth quarters in the games immediately before and after his legendary performance, scoring 20 points in the fourth at Phoenix on January 20 and 16 points in the fourth on January 27 versus the Warriors.

Westbrook’s latest triple-double features perfection at the free-throw line

Russell Westbrook resumed tripling his doubles on Friday in the Thunder’s 114–102 victory over the Grizzlies after posting a mere “single-double” against the Bulls in his previous game. Westbrook finished with 38 points, 13 rebounds, and 12 assists versus Memphis to record his 25th triple-double of the season. Westbrook also made a season-high 17 free throws without a miss from the charity stripe, matching his career-high for most foul shots in a game without missing. He also went 17-for-17 at the line (and recorded a triple-double) on March 20, 2015 against the Hawks.

The most free throws without a miss in a game by a player who also recorded a triple-double is 18, done by none other than “Mr. Triple Double” himself, Oscar Robertson. On Jan. 30, 1962 at St. Louis, “The Big O” totaled 36 points, 14 rebounds, and 13 assists while nailing all 18 of his free-throw attempts versus the Hawks. The only other player besides Robertson and Westbrook to notch a triple-double and go 17-or-17 or better from the free throw line was Dolph Schayes, who posted 35 points, 14 rebounds, and 10 assists for the Syracuse Nationals at Cincinnati in December 1960 while also going 17-for-17 from the foul line.

Yogi Ferrell has arrived

Yogi Ferrell has breathed new life into the Mavericks. In his 14th NBA game, and fourth game since signing a 10-day contract with the Mavericks, the undrafted rookie led Dallas with 32 points and five assists to propel the Mavericks to victory against the Trail Blazers. Ferrell became the first undrafted rookie in NBA history to score 30 or more points in a game while also leading his team in assists. Prior to Ferrell, the only other undrafted rookie to score at least 30 points in a game within his first 15 games in the NBA was Anthony Morrow, who poured in 37 points for the Warriors in just his fourth game in the pros.

Ferrell, who was waived in December after playing 10 games for the Brooklyn Nets, connected on nine of 11 three-pointers in the Mavericks’ win. Only one other rookie – drafted or not – made that many threes in a game since the NBA installed the three-point line in 1979. On March 27, 2010, Roddy Beaubois, like Ferrell, made nine of 11 three-point attempts, and, like Ferrell, he did so for the Mavericks in a road victory (Beaubois’s game was at Golden State).

Harden tops 40 for second straight night

James Harden atoned for missing the potential game-winner at the end of regulation by scoring six of the Rockets’ 13 points in overtime, helping Houston defeat the Bulls, 121–117. Harden finished with 42 points, one more point than he scored the previous day in a loss against the Hawks. That’s the second time Harden had totaled at least 40 points on back-to-back days for Houston; he also did that on November 6–7 in the 2015–16 season. Four other Rockets players have accomplished that feat at least once. Elvin Hayes posted 40-point games on back-to-back days twice in the 1968–69 season, and Moses Malone did so twice as well in the 1981–82 campaign. The other two Rockets to accomplish that feat each did so once – Hakeem Olajuwon in January 1995 and Tracy McGrady in January 2006.

Buzzer beater banker by Booker

Devin Booker nailed a fadeaway over Matt Barnes at the buzzer to give the Suns a 105–103 victory over the Kings. Booker, who led Phoenix with 33 points, has scored at least 20 in each of his last 15 games. The only Suns player in the last 20 seasons with a 20-point streak of that length is Amar’e Stoudemire, who had a 15-game streak of that kind spanning the 2003–04 and 2004–05 seasons as well as streaks of 15 games and 18 games within the 2007–08 campaign.

Booker is also the second player in NBA history at age 20 or younger to score at least 20 points in as many as 15 consecutive games. At age 20, LeBron James totaled 20 or more points in 15 consecutive games spanning February and March of 2005. James then topped 20 points in his final 15 games of the 2004-05 season as well as the first five games of the 2005-06 campaign to cap a 20-game streak of 20-point games at age 20.

Pistons prevail thanks to career night for Morris

Marcus Morris led all players with 36 points to lead the Pistons to a 116–108 victory over the Timberwolves. Not only did Morris establish a new career-high in scoring (his previous high was 34 points done in 2015), he also bested the highest point total of his twin brother Markieff, who had held bragging rights in the family after scoring 35 points in a win over the Cavaliers in January 2015. The Morrises are the eighth set of brothers to each compile at least 35 points in a NBA game; the only other active duo on that list are Pau and Marc Gasol.

Towns joins short list of elite bigs

Morris’s big night overshadowed a strong effort by Karl-Anthony Towns, who scored a team-high 24 points and secured 11 rebounds for the Timberwolves. That’s the fifth straight game for Towns with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds. Only two players in NBA history as young as Towns (who was 21 years, 80 days old as of Friday) compiled five or more consecutive games with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds. The youngest was Shaquille O’Neal, who had several such streaks, the first being a six-game streak at age 20 in the first month of his rookie season in 1992–93. Dwight Howard had a five-game streak in February 2007 at a slightly younger 21 than Towns is currently.

No joke! Jokic records first triple-double

Nikola Jokic recorded the Nuggets’ first triple-double since 2013 in Denver’s 121–117 win over the Bucks. Jokic scored 20 points, secured 13 rebounds, and tied his career-high by distributing 11 assists while manning the middle for the Nuggets. Jokic, who also handed out 11 assists on December 28 versus the Timberwolves, is one of two Nuggets players to record 11 or more assists in a game while starting at center since Denver joined the NBA in 1976. On April 5, 2008, Marcus Camby distributed a career-high 11 assists in a home loss versus the Kings. Prior to Friday, Camby was also the only Nuggets player since the 1976–77 season to start at center and record a points/rebounds/assists triple-double. Camby did that on March 16, 2008 in a 168–116 victory over the Sonics, totaling 13 points, 15 rebounds, and 10 assists.

Raptors not looking forward

Serge Ibaka scored 12 of his 20 points in the first quarter to help the Magic take an early lead in their 102–94 victory over the Raptors. When the final buzzer sounded, Ibaka happened to be the only starting forward who had made a field goal. His teammate Aaron Gordon missed all seven of his field-goal attempts and finished with one point. But that was one more point than Toronto’s starting forwards – DeMarre Carroll finished scoreless in 18 minutes of action, and Patrick Patterson also had no points to his name before an early knee injury sidelined him for the game. Friday’s game marked the first time in the Raptors’ 22 NBA seasons that both of their starting forwards finished a game without scoring a point.

Carroll and Patterson are the third pair of starting forwards this season to finish a game scoreless. Dante Cunningham and Solomon Hill failed to net a point for the Pelicans on November 2 at Memphis, as did Andre Roberson and Domantas Sabonis on January 2 for the Thunder at Milwaukee.

Pacers stifle Nets with flurry of steals and blocks

The Pacers turned in a strong defensive effort in their 106–97 triumph over the Nets in Brooklyn. Two of Indiana’s players finished with multiple steals (Jeff Teague and Monta Ellis), two others blocked multiple shots (Myles Turner and CJ Miles), and another two accomplished both feats (Paul George and Thaddeus Young). Indiana totaled 11 steals and 10 blocks in the win, marking the second time in the last four seasons (2013–14 to date) that the team reached double-digits in both categories in a single game. The Pacers also posted 11 steals and 10 blocks on Feb. 25, 2014 at home against the Lakers.

Kessel celebrates 800th game with overtime winner

Phil Kessel, in the 800th regular-season game of his NHL career, scored two goals, including one in overtime which earned the Penguins a 4–3 victory over the Blue Jackets. Kessel was the fifth overall pick in the 2006 Entry Draft (by the Bruins) and he’s the first player from his draft class to reach the 800-game mark. Kessel is also the leading goal-scorer among 2006 draftees (290 goals), and he ranks second in total points among that group, behind Nicklas Backstrom (693–629).

DeKeyser not the usual suspect for a tiebreaking goal

Danny DeKeyser’s goal with 27.9 seconds remaining in the third period snapped a 4–4 tie and earned the Red Wings a 5–4 win over the Islanders. DeKeyser is the first defenseman to score a tiebreaking goal in the last minute of regulation time in an NHL game this season, and he’s only the third Detroit defenseman to do that in the last 35 seasons. The others were Nicklas Lidstrom in 2009 (March 4 vs. Phoenix) and Jonathan Ericsson in 2013 (Feb. 10 vs. Los Angeles).

Hurricanes rookie notches second straight game-winner

Rookie Sebastian Aho’s tiebreaking goal early in the third period was the game-winning goal in the Hurricanes’ 2–1 victory over the Oilers. In Carolina’s last game (Tuesday vs. Philadelphia), Aho registered his first NHL hat trick and one of his three goals was the game-winner for the Canes. He’s the third rookie in Hartford/Carolina franchise history to score the winning goal in each of two consecutive team games in one season. The others were the Whalers’ Dean Evason in February 1986 and the Hurricanes’ Shane Willis in February 2001.

Brodie provides lots of help in Flames’ win

Calgary defenseman T.J. Brodie set his career high for assists in one game by assisting on all of the Flames’ goals in their 4–3 overtime win against the Devils in New Jersey. Brodie is the third player in Flames franchise history to record as many as four assists in one game while notching an assist on every one of the team’s goals. The other Flames players to do that were also defensemen: Gary Suter (in a 5–4 loss to Edmonton on Dec. 26, 1987) and Dion Phaneuf (Dec. 5, 2008 in a 4–3 overtime win at St. Louis).

Huberdeau nets game-winner in first game back from injury

Jonathan Huberdeau, returning to the Panthers’ lineup for the first time since he suffered an Achilles tendon injury in the team’s final preseason game, scored the winning goal in Florida’s 2–1 victory over the Ducks. Huberdeau scored a career-high 20 goals last season, but he went goalless in his first 15 games and scored only one goal in his first 24 games.