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Elias Says: March 19, 2017

Harden goes where no NBA player ever has

James Harden accomplished something never done in the history of the NBA as the Rockets earned a hard-fought 109-105 victory at Denver. Harden finished the game with 40 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, just one night after he produced 41 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists in a game at New Orleans. No other player in NBA history has produced a 40-point triple-double on each of two consecutive days.

Harden now has seven 40-point triple-doubles this season (the first of the seven came on New Year’s Eve), the highest single-season total for any player in NBA history. He had never had a 40-point triple-double prior to this season.

It was the second time this season that Harden has generated a 40-point triple-double in each of two successive games (he did it previously on January 8-10). That’s another first. No other NBA player has had multiple two-game streaks of 40-point triple-doubles within one season.

Westbrook: no triple-double, but a cool milestone nonetheless

Russell Westbrook did not achieve a triple-double in the Thunder’s Saturday afternoon victory over the visiting Kings – while he finished with 28 points and 10 assists, he fell two rebounds shy of a double-digit total. That ended his streak of four consecutive triple-doubles (each in a win), and left his total of triple-doubles at 34—as opposed to 35 games in which he did not earn one. Oscar Robertson has owned the NBA single-season record of 41 triple-doubles since the 1961-62 season, when the NBA schedule was 80 games long, as opposed to the current 82. (The Big O played in 79 of his team’s 80 games.) Westbrook would need eight triple-doubles in the Thunder’s 13 remaining games to break Robertson’s record.

But not to worry. Westbrook’s performance against Sacramento has us invoking the name of another top-tier Hall-of-Famer. With nine field goals on Saturday, Westbrook raised his total of field goals for the season to 700. Westbrook also has accumulated 725 rebounds and 714 assists, and has become the first NBA player to reach 700 field goals, 700 rebounds and 700 assists in a single season since Wilt Chamberlain did it with the 76ers in the 1967-68 season. Besides Wilt, the only other player with a 3x700 season was Robertson, who did it in each of three consecutive seasons starting with that 1961-62 season.

Lillard keys record first quarter for Blazers

Damian Lillard produced a four-point play just 49 seconds into the game, finished the first quarter with 13 of the Trail Blazers’ 40 points, and led the Blazers to a 113-97 victory in Atlanta. Lillard’s four-point play was the earliest in any NBA game in nearly four years, since the Kings’ John Salmons hit a three and a foul shot just 20 seconds into a game against the Warriors on March 27, 2013. Remarkably, Portland’s 40-18 lead after the game’s first 12 minutes was the largest end-of-first-quarter lead that the team has produced in any of its 1,888 road games since entering the NBA in 1970.

Fizdale now 2-0, all-time, against Popovich

The Grizzlies kept pace with the Thunder and the Clippers with a 104-96 victory over the Spurs. Memphis, Oklahoma City and the Clippers each gained a game on Utah, which holds fourth place in the Western Conference but lost its Saturday night game at Chicago.

Memphis is the only team that has multiple wins and no losses against San Antonio this season. (The Clippers have beaten the Spurs twice, but have lost to San Antonio once; and the Knicks won the only game they have played against San Antonio so far this season.) And so David Fizdale has started his NBA head-coaching career with victories in each of his first two games against Gregg Popovich. He’s the first head-coach to best Pop in each of their first two meetings since Avery Johnson started that way while coaching the Mavericks in 2005.

Clippers beat champs by 30 points, but…

Blake Griffin put in 13 points in the third quarter en route to a game-high 23 points as the Clippers throttled the starless Cavaliers, 108-78. It marked the second-highest points total in the third period for Griffin this season. In his career, Griffin has scored as many as 13 points more often in the first quarter (36 times) than in the other quarters combined (26 times).

LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love sat out the game, throwing shade on what will go into the books as the largest margin of victory ever achieved by the Clippers franchise in a game against the defending NBA champions.

Portis, out of starting lineup, responds with 22 points

Bobby Portis, who had started each of the Bulls’ last 12 games, came off the bench to contribute a career-high 22 points in his team’s 95-86 come-from-behind victory over the visiting Jazz. It was the first time this season that Portis scored 20-or-more points in a game. The last NBA player to score 20-plus points coming off the bench immediately following a run of 12 games in which he started each game but never reached 20 was Danny Green of the Spurs in November 2014. Green scored 21 points in a victory over the Nets.

Warriors beat Bucks, re-confirming West’s dominance over East

Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson combined to make nine three-pointers in 14 attempts on Saturday night as the Warriors rolled to a 117-92 victory over the visiting Bucks. The game went into the victory column not only for the Warriors, but also for the Western Conference, and with that win, the West clinched the interconference season series against the East for the 17th time in the last 18 seasons. The Warriors’ victory over the Bucks was the 226th victory this season (against only 187 losses) for an NBA West team against an NBA East team. Even if the East sweeps the remaining 37 games between the conferences, the West will once again prevail.

Zeller finds his name atop the leading scorers

Cody Zeller made eight of his 10 field-goal attempts and finished with a game-high 19 points in the Hornets’ 98-93 victory over the visiting Wizards. It was the first time this season that Zeller has been the high scorer in a game—something that has become kind of a once-a-season event. Zeller scored a game-high points total once in the 2014-15 season and once last season, with Charlotte winning both of those games.

Backstrom earns 4 assists, and he’s been there before

Nicklas Backstrom tied his career high for assists in a game when he set up four of the Capitals’ five goals in their win over the Lightning on Saturday. It was Backstrom’s first four-assist game this season and his 10th such game in a 10-season NHL career spent entirely with Washington. The only other NHL players with even half as many four-assist games as Backstrom over the last 10 seasons are Sidney Crosby and Ryan Getzlaf, with six each. The only other player in the Capitals’ 42-season history with more than three four-assist games was Michal Pivonka with five (from 1992 to 1996).

McDavid now has 25 goals, 80 points

Connor McDavid scored his 25th goal of the season in the Oilers’ 2-0 victory over the Canucks; the 20-year-old also has earned 55 assists, for a total of 80 points. The last Oilers player to accumulate as many as 80 points in a season before his 21st birthday was Jimmy Carson, who at age 20, completed the 1988-89 season with 100 points.

Second-period Silfverberg comes through again

Jacob Silfverberg snapped a 1-1 tie with a second-period goal, his 20th goal of the season, and the Ducks went away the 2-1 winners in San Jose. Twelve of Silfverberg’s 20 goals have been scored in the second period of games; only Filip Forsberg and Evgeni Malkin have produced more second-period goals this season, with 14 apiece.

Red Wings finally have a 20-goal scorer

Tomas Tatar became the first Red Wings player to reach the 20-goal mark this season when he scored the second of his two goals in Detroit’s 5-1 win over the Avalanche. This is the third consecutive 20-goal season for Tatar, who put in 29 goals for the Red Wings in 2014-15 and 21 last season. The Red Wings have never gone through a season of 50 games or more without at least one 20-goal scorer. Tatar reached the 20-goal mark this season in Detroit’s 70th game this season, the most games into a season that it has ever taken the Red Wings to produce their first 20-goal scorer. The previous mark was set three years ago, in 2013-14, when Gustav Nyquist, Detroit’s lone 20-goal scorer that season, reached that mark in the team’s 69th game.

Atkinson ties two records with one goal

Cam Atkinson tied two Columbus single-season team records when he scored the overtime goal that lifted the Blue Jackets to a 3-2 victory over the Islanders in Brooklyn. It was his seventh game-winning goal this season, matching the franchise mark done five previous times (including by Atkinson in 2014-15), and it was his third overtime goal of this season, tying the team record established by Seth Jones earlier this season. Atkinson and Jones are the fifth pair of players each to score at least three overtime goals for the same NHL team in one season. The other teams with two such players were the 1936-37 Canadiens (Toe Blake, Johnny Gagnon), 2003-04 Penguins (Ryan Malone, Aleksey Morozov), 2006-07 Canucks (Sami Salo, Daniel Sedin) and 2015-16 Kings (Jeff Carter, Anze Kopitar).

Skinner scores a pair, now has 25 goals

Jeff Skinner scored his 24th and 25th goals of the season in the Hurricanes’ 4-2 win over the Predators. The 24-year-old Skinner has scored at least 25 goals in four of his seven seasons with the Hurricanes. That ties the franchise record for most 25-goal seasons by a player before his 25th birthday. Kevin Dineen and Geoff Sanderson each reached the 25-goal mark four times before turning 25 for the Hartford Whalers, and Eric Staal previously did so for Carolina.

Vesey goal is key in Rangers’ win

Jimmy Vesey was credited with scoring the game-winning goal for the Rangers in their 3-2 victory over the Wild in St. Paul. It was Vesey’s fifth game-winning goal this season, tying Patrik Laine and Mitch Marner for second-most in the NHL among rookies, one behind Auston Matthews. Vesey’s total of five game-winning goals is the highest in one season by a Rangers rookie since Mike Ridley scored six in 1985-86.

Allen blanks Coyotes, as Blues win again in Arizona

Jake Allen produced his fourth shutout of the season for the Blues on Saturday night, a 3-0 win over the Coyotes. Allen has tied Carter Hutton for the St. Louis team lead in shutouts. The Blues are the second NHL team to have two goaltenders each produce at least four shutouts this season; Ottawa’s Mike Condon (five) and Craig Anderson (four) is the other duo with that distinction. This is the fourth consecutive season in which the Blues have had two goaltenders each rack up four or more shutouts. Brian Elliott (now with Calgary) was part of the tandem in each of the past three seasons. He was joined by Jaroslav Halak in 2013-14, and Allen in both 2014-15 and 2015-16.

The Blues have now won their last eight road games against the Coyotes, all in regulation, and have outscored them, 38-12, in those games. That streak equals the Blues’ longest road winning streak against any one team in franchise history; St. Louis won eight consecutive games in Vancouver from 1996 to 2000.

Hartman and Hayden get it done in Toronto

Rookie Ryan Hartman scored the first overtime goal of his NHL career to give the Blackhawks a 2-1 win in Toronto. Chicago’s first goal was scored by another rookie, John Hayden, and it was his first goal in the NHL. Hartman, who was born in South Carolina, and Hayden, born in Chicago, are two of the six U.S.-born rookies who have scored goals for the Blackhawks this season. (The others are Vinnie Hinostroza, Tanner Kero, Tyler Motte and Nick Schmaltz.) The only other NHL teams with more than two U.S.-born rookie goal-scorers this season are the Devils and the Coyotes, with four each.

Karlsson picks up two points in loss, now has 65 for season

Erik Karlsson provided a goal and an assist for the Senators in what turned out to be a shootout loss to the Canadiens. Karlsson was the leading point producer among NHL defensemen in each of the past three seasons with totals of 74, 66 and 82 points, and he ranks second in that category this season with 65 points (behind Brent Burns, 70). Karlsson is the first NHL defenseman to score at least 65 points in each of four consecutive seasons since 1993–94, which was the final season of a 13-year run by Paul Coffey (the longest such streak ever by an NHL defenseman) and was also the last season of a five-year streak by Ray Bourque.