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Elias Says: March 20, 2017

A Miami masterpiece for Lillard

What a night it was for Damian Lillard, who scored a season-high 49 points in the Trail Blazers’ 115–104 victory at Miami. Lillard fell two points short of the highest single-game total ever posted by a visiting player at Miami. Alex English set that record in a double-overtime game in 1989, and Vince Carter matched it in 2005.

Lillard also tied a team-record with nine three-point field goals, surpassing the 1000 mark for his NBA career. Of the 91 other players to make at least 1000 three-point FGs, only two hit at least nine three-pointers in their milestone game: Dennis Scott (nine 3’s in 1997) and Klay Thompson (10 in 2016).

Cavs rally to keep James’ near-perfect record intact

Trailing by 10 points after three quarters, the Cavaliers outscored the Lakers, 43–28, in the fourth quarter to post a 125–120 victory at Staples Center. With that loss, Los Angeles fell to 30 games below the .500 mark (20–50), and therein lies the subtext to Cleveland’s victory. Over the last eight seasons, LeBron James, who scored 34 points in the Cavs’ win, has won 43 of 45 games when playing against a team with a record at least 20 games below .500.

Rookie Saric leads Sixers to win over Celtics

Dario Saric led the 76ers with 23 points in their 105–99 win over the Celtics. It was Saric’s 12th game with at least 20 points this season, to rank second among rookies, behind his teammate Joel Embiid (19). In fact, Embiid and Saric have accounted for more games of at least 20 points (31) than all other NBA rookies combined this season (26). This is the first time in franchise history, including 17 seasons in Syracuse, that the 76ers/Nationals had two rookies who both had even five 20-point games.

Nobody does it like Pops and the Spurs

San Antonio defeated Sacramento, 118–102, as Gregg Popovich took advantage of another rout to give his squad some rest. The Spurs led the Kings, 99–74, after three quarters, and no San Antonio player was on the court for more than the 27 minutes that Jonathon Simmons played. That’s a Popovich signature. Over the last 10 seasons, the Spurs have won 96 games in which no player had 30 minutes of court time. That’s more than three times the total of such games by any other team in the league. The Clippers and Thunder are the runners-up with 31 games each.

New Orleans reaches new heights with high-scoring weekend

The Pelicans scored 75 points in the second half, erasing a six-point halftime deficit to score a 123–109 victory over the Timberwolves. On the heels of Friday’s 128–112 win over Houston, this marked first time in team history that New Orleans scored more than 120 points in each of two consecutive games.

Barea takes charge down the stretch

J.J. Barea scored 20 points off the bench, including nine straight Dallas points in the final 5 minutes of the fourth quarter, in the Mavericks’ 111–104 victory at Brooklyn. It was the second time in calendar year 2017 that Barea scored nine consecutive fourth-quarter points for the Mavs; he also did so in a victory over the Timberwolves on January 15. Prior to that, Barea hadn’t accounted for nine straight fourth-quarter points for his team since doing it for Minnesota in March 2013.

KCP puts it all together in Pistons’ win

It was the kind of performance long expected of one-time #8 pick Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who scored 23 points and was credited with eight assists in the Pistons’ 112–95 win over the Suns. Caldwell-Pope matched the second-highest assist total of his career while shooting 8-for-14 from the field; it was the first of 303 games in the NBA in which he had as many as eight FGs and eight assists. The result was that Detroit outscored Phoenix, 87–61, with KCP on the court. It was his fifth game at plus-25 or better this season, compared to only six such games in his first three seasons in the league.

Raptors are coping with Lowry’s absence

The Raptors opened a 62–45 halftime lead and cruised to a 116–91 victory over the Pacers. It was the 13th consecutive game missed by Kyle Lowry, who remains sidelined following surgery on his right wrist. Lowry has missed a total of 48 games in his five seasons with Toronto, and Sunday’s 25-point victory over Indiana was the Raptors’ biggest win in any of those games. (They have a 27–21 record in the games that Lowry missed.)

For the first time, Crosby wins the race to 40 goals

Sidney Crosby became the first NHL player to reach the 40-goal mark this season when he scored the third of his three goals in the Penguins’ 4–0 win against the Panthers. This is the first time that Crosby has been “first to 40” in his 12 seasons in the NHL; the only other season in which he scored at least 40 goals was 2009–10, when he scored 51. It’s the first time that any Pittsburgh player won the race to 40 goals since Mario Lemieux (1995–96) and Jaromir Jagr (1996–97) did so in back-to-back seasons.

Crosby’s hat trick was the 10th of his career, which ties him for third most in Penguins history. It’s amazing to note that Penguins’ all-time leader in that category, Mario Lemieux, produced the same number of hat tricks for Pittsburgh (40) as the four players who rank second through fifth combined: Evgeni Malkin (11), Crosby (10), Kevin Stevens (10), and Jaromir Jagr (9).

Blue Jackets make history with two penalty-shot goals

Lukas Sedlak and Brandon Dubinsky each scored a penalty-shot goal for the Blue Jackets as they clinched a playoff spot with a 4–1 win over the Devils. This was only the third game in NHL history in which two goals were scored on by penalty shots (by one team or both teams combined). The previous two instances were when Thomas Gradin and Ivan Hlinka of the Canucks scored penalty-shot goals against the Red Wings on Feb. 11, 1982, and when Ryane Clowe and Joe Thornton of the Sharks did the same versus the Capitals on Dec. 30, 2009.

Sedlak is the first rookie to score a penalty-shot goal in an NHL game since Andrew Miller tallied for Edmonton against Dallas on March 27, 2015, and he is the first rookie to score a shorthanded goal with a penalty shot since the Penguins’ Olli Maatta did that versus Minnesota on Dec. 19, 2013.

Toews and Kane are a rare pair of 10-year teammates

Jonathan Toews reached the 20-goal mark for the 10th time in his 10 seasons in the NHL when he scored the second of his two goals in the Blackhawks’ win over the Avalanche. His teammate, Patrick Kane, who debuted alongside Toews with Chicago in October 2007, has also scored at least 20 goals in all 10 seasons of his NHL career. Toews and Kane are the first pair of players to each score 20 or more goals for the same NHL team in each of 10 consecutive seasons since Mark Messier and Jari Kurri did so for Edmonton from 1980–81 through 1989–90.

Byron’s March to remember produces a milestone

Paul Byron became a 20-goal scorer for the first time in his seven seasons in the NHL when he tallied a third-period goal for the Canadiens in their 4–1 win over the Senators on Sunday. Byron did not score a goal in the 13 games he played for Montreal last month but he leads the team with six goals in eight games in March. No other player has scored more than two goals for the Canadiens this month. Byron’s six goals in March are a career high for any calendar month in his NHL career.

Jets salvage win after blowing 4–0 lead

Josh Morrissey’s goal with just over 7 minutes remaining in the third period snapped a 4–4 tie and enabled the Jets to salvage a 5–4 victory over the Wild in a game in which Winnipeg blew a 4–0 lead. It was only the fourth time that a team squandered a four-goal lead in an NHL game this season, but it was the third of those four games in which the team that let the four-goal cushion evaporate ended up winning in regulation time. The Blackhawks did that in their 7–4 win versus the Flyers on October 18, as well as Minnesota in its 5–4 victory at Dallas on January 14. The Jets are the only NHL team to win a game this season in which they trailed by four goals. They overcame a 4–0 deficit and beat the Maple Leafs, 5–4 in overtime, on October 19.

Flyers turn looming defeat to victory

The Flyers were less than a minute away from suffering a 3–2 loss to the Hurricanes, but Travis Konecny’s goal with 42.9 seconds remaining in the third period tied the score at 3–3 and Brayden Schenn’s goal at the 38-second mark in overtime earned Philadelphia a 4–3 win over Carolina. Excluding games decided by a shootout, this was the first time that the Flyers won a game in which they trailed in the final minute of the third period since their 5–4 overtime victory against the Capitals on March 31, 2013. Kimmo Timonen scored the tying goal in that game at 19:50 of the third period and Ruslan Fedotenko notched the overtime winner for the Flyers.