Cousins and Kareem
DeMarcus Cousins had one of the greatest boxscore lines of this or any other season: 32 points, 20 rebounds, 8 assists and 5 blocked shots in Friday night’s losing effort against the Mavericks. There have been 47,507 games played in the NBA since it began recording blocked shots in 1973, and in all of those games, only one other player has achieved the totals of points, rebounds, assists and blocks that Cousins reached against Dallas. Back on Nov. 17, 1978, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar finished with 32 points, 23 rebounds, 9 assists and 8 blocked shots for the Lakers in a 121-109 victory over the New Orleans Jazz. (That was the Jazz’s final season representing New Orleans before moving to Utah.)
Mavs’ bench overcomes Pelicans’ stars
DeMarcus Cousins finished with 32 points and Anthony Davis 33, but the game was decided not by the Pelicans stars, but by the Mavericks reserves. Devin Harris (17), Dwight Powell (15), J.J. Barea (14), Yogi Ferrell (7) and Salah Mejri (7) combined for 60 points, and the Mavericks won in New Orleans, 128-120. Though its starters were outscored, 110-68, Dallas became the second team this month to beat the Pelicans in a game in which the New Orleans starters scored 110-or-more points. On December 11, the Rockets took a 130-123 verdict over the Pelicans, whose starters scored 120 points in the game. Prior to this month, no NBA team had won a regulation-length game in which its opponents’ starters scored as many as 110 points since February of 2009, when the Warriors won such a game against the Thunder.
Dennis Smith, Jr. led the Mavericks with 21 points, and also contributed 10 rebounds and 10 assists to become only the second rookie in franchise history to earn a triple-double. Jason Kidd produced four triple-doubles for Dallas as a rookie in the 1994-95 season. Smith’s triple-double lifted to seven the total of triple-doubles by NBA rookies this season (Ben Simmons has four and Lonzo Ball two); that’s one more triple-double than were produced by rookies over the previous five seasons combined.
Dallas led, 109-101, entering the fourth quarter, in only the second NBA game over the last three seasons in which each team had scored 100 points before the fourth quarter began. (On April 4 of this year, the Pelicans led the Nuggets, 105-102, after three quarters.)
Markkanen & Mirotic star as Bulls’ first-of-its-kind turnaround continues
Rookie Lauri Markkanen scored a season-high 32 points and Nikola Mirotic scored 28 points off the bench to propel the Bulls to a 119-107 victory over the Pacers. Markkanen became the fourth rookie to score 30-or-more points in an NBA game this season (the others: Kyle Kuzma, Ben Simmons and Donovan Mitchell), but he's the first to score 30 while playing less than 30 minutes. The only other Bulls rookie ever to produce a “30 in less than 30” game was Ben Gordon, who enjoyed three such games in the 2004-05 season. Mirotic scored 14 consecutive Bulls points during the first half, the longest streak of consecutive points by a Chicago player in any game this season. His 8-for-16 shooting from three-point range boosted his three-point field-goal percentage for the season to 48.0 percent, and he took over the top spot in the NBA in that category.
The Bulls, who started the season losing 20 of their first 23 games, have won 10 of 12 since then, coinciding with the return of Mirotic to action on December 8. The Bulls were the 31st team in NBA history to accumulate 20 losses within their first 23 games of a season; but they are the first of those 31 teams to win 10 of their next 12 games (that is, over games 24 through 35).
Wizards beat another top team; streaks continue for Harden & Rockets
The Wizards entered Friday’s play with a 10-6 (.625) record against teams currently above .500 but just a 9-10 (.474) mark against teams below .500. No other NBA team with an overall winning percentage above .500 had an even higher winning percentage than its overall mark against teams currently possessing winning records. The Wizards then went out and whipped the visiting Rockets, who brought a 25-8 record into the game, by the score of 121-103—and it took a 9-0 Houston spurt in the game’s closing moments to make the final score even that close. It was the Wizards’ largest victory margin over the Rockets in nearly 22 years, since Washington took a 120-85 decision back on Jan. 25, 1996.
Otto Porter, Jr. led the way for the Wizards on Friday night, leading the team in both points (26) and assists (7). It was the first of Porter’s 299 games in the NBA in which he led his team in both points and assists. He made seven of Washington’s franchise-record-tying total of 18 three-point field goals.
James Harden reached the 20-point mark with just over a minute to play in the third quarter and then sat out the fourth. He has scored 20-or-more points in each of Houston’s 34 games this season, the longest streak of consecutive 20-point games to start a season since George Gervin scored in his first 45 games of the 1981-82 season. The Rockets extended their losing streak to five games, the longest in NBA history on the heels of a winning streak of 14-or-more games.
Howard leads Hornets over Warriors
Dwight Howard turned back the clock, turning in a 29-point, 13-rebound tour de force to lead the Hornets to a 111-100 victory over the Warriors in Oakland. No other player on either team scored as many points or collected as many rebounds as did Howard—the third game this season in which Howard has been the outright leader in both categories. At his peak, Howard produced 25 such games during the 2010-11 season, but his total of three such games this season has already tripled the total of times that he was the game’s outright leader in both points and rebounds over the past two seasons combined.
Westbrook’s 40 trumped by a Giannis drive
Giannis Antetokounmpo drove the baseline for a controversial game-winning dunk with 1.3 seconds remaining to lift the Bucks to a 97-95 win at Oklahoma City. (Television replays suggested that Giannis may have stepped on the end line en route to the hoop.) Milwaukee led, 38-18, after one quarter, and led until Russell Westbrook’s three-pointer tied the score at 95-95 with 4.7 seconds remaining. Westbrook finished with a season-high 40 points, the 35th game in which he has scored at least 40 points in his NBA career. Remarkably, the Thunder’s won-lost record in those 35 games is 17-18.
Antetokounmpo averaged 29.0 points in his 13 games in December, becoming the first Bucks player to average as many as 27 points per game in a calendar month (minimum: 10 games) since Michael Redd averaged 30.4 points per game in November 2006.
Clippers still beating Lakers like… Lakers used to beat Clippers
Blake Griffin led the Clippers with 24 points in his first game back after a 14-game absence as his team rolled to a 121-106 triumph over the Lakers. That makes six straight wins for the Clippers against their Staples Center rivals, including three this season. Going back farther, the Clippers have beaten the Lakers in 17 of their last 18 meetings. But going back to 1984, when the Clippers moved into Los Angeles to make Tinseltown a two-team NBA city, the Lakers still hold a commanding lead in the inter-city series, 99 wins to 50. In fact, with their win on Friday night, the Clippers for the first time can say that they have won at least one-third of all the games that the teams have played against each other since 1984.
Home is where DeMar is
DeMar DeRozan paced the Raptors with 25 points to lead the team to a 111-98 home win over the Hawks, Toronto’s 13th win in 14 home games this season. DeRozan has been the key man in that superb home record; he has been the team’s leading scorer (or tied for the lead) in 12 of those 14 home games, and has averaged nearly three points per game more at home (25.8) than on the road (22.9) this season.
Nets cool off Heat
Joe Harris came off the bench to score a game-high 21 points, the first time in his 141-game NBA career that he has led all scorers on both teams, as the Nets won, 111-87, in Miami. But with due respect to Joe, it was really about defense as the Nets held the Heat to 30 field goals in 89 attempts, a rate of 33.71 percent. It had been more than two years since the Nets held an opponent to such a low shooting percentage (the last such occasion being a Nov. 29, 2015 game in which the Pistons shot 33.66 from the floor. And it was the lowest shooting percentage ever produced by the Heat in any of their 117 games against the Nets.
Warren lifts Suns to 5th win in 7 games
T. J. Warren poured in 26 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and led the Suns to a 111-101 victory at Sacramento, their fifth win in their last seven games. It was Warren’s second 25-point, 10-rebound game this season, one more than Suns players produced all last season. (Eric Bledsoe had the lone 25-and-10 game for Phoenix last season, hitting those totals exactly on February 15 in a victory over the Lakers.)
A night to remember for Jeff Glass
Journeyman goaltender Jeff Glass, a 32-year-old veteran of 13 seasons in the minor leagues and the KHL, made his NHL debut on Friday when he started for the Blackhawks and recorded 42 saves in a 4-3 overtime win at Edmonton. Glass is only the fifth goaltender since 1973 to make his NHL debut at age 32 or older. The others are Rick Knickle (age 32 in Feb. 1993), Fredrik Norrena (age 32 in Oct. 2006), Rob Zepp (age 33 in Dec. 2014) and Jorge Alves (age 37 on Dec. 31, 2016), the Hurricanes equipment manager who played briefly in goal while serving as an emergency backup.
Glass is the third-oldest goaltender ever to make his NHL debut while playing for Chicago. Hugh Lehman was 41 years old when he started for the Blackhawks in the first game in their history (Nov. 17, 1926 vs. Toronto), and Paul Goodman debuted at age 34 with a start on Dec. 27, 1939 against the New York Americans.
Glass became the first goaltender to make at least 42 saves in his first NHL game since Edmonton’s Laurent Brossoit stopped 49 shots on April 9, 2015 (a loss to San Jose). In addition, Glass was the first to do so while winning his debut since the Sharks’ Troy Grosenick posted a 45-save, 2-0 shutout win at Carolina on Nov. 16, 2014.
Red Wings win a thriller as Rangers miss big chance in OT
Frans Nielsen beat Henrik Lundqvist for the only goal of a shootout, lifting the Red Wings to a victory over the visiting Rangers, 3-2. It was Nielsen’s 47th shootout goal and his 21st shootout game-winner, both NHL records.
Earlier, Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard had stopped Brady Skjei on a penalty shot during the overtime period. It was the third penalty shot taken by a Rangers player in overtime since the NHL re-established the overtime rule in 1983. None of those shots has produced a goal, with the other misses coming off the sticks of Tony Amonte (1994) and Marian Gaborik (2012).
Senators earn a rare down-by-2-goals win
The Senators overcame a 3-1 deficit to earn a 5-4 home win over the Blue Jackets. It was the first time that the Senators won a game in which they trailed by two goals or more since their 6-4 victory at Calgary on Feb. 27, 2016. Entering play on Friday, the Senators were the only NHL team that had not won a game after trailing by more than one goal over the last two seasons. Every other NHL team had at least two such comeback wins over that span.
Eichel nets another pair as Sabres win
Jack Eichel scored a pair of goals for the Sabres in a 4-3 overtime victory over the Devils in Newark. It was Eichel’s third multiple-goal game this season, all of which have come this month. (He scored three goals against Carolina on Dec. 15 and two against Philadelphia on Dec. 22.) Eichel is the first player to produce three multi-goal games for the Sabres in one calendar month since Drew Stafford did so in February 2011.
Marcus Johansson scored one of the Devils’ three goals in Friday’s game. Johansson has scored at least one goal in each of his last seven games against the Sabres, dating back to December 2015 (nine total goals). It’s the longest current goal-scoring streak against one team by any active NHL player.
Radulov gets another late game-winner
Alexander Radulov’s power play goal snapped a 2-2 tie with 2:21 left to play in the third period and his empty-net goal wrapped up a 4-2 win for the Stars against the Blues. It was the second time this season that Radulov scored a go-ahead goal in the final five minutes of the third period, having previously done that against the Capitals on December 19. He’s the only NHL player to have scored more than one such goal this season.
Giroux gets 3 assists, sets career-high for assists in one month
Claude Giroux assisted on three goals for the Flyers in their 5-3 win in Tampa. Giroux has racked up 16 assists in the 13 games that he has played in December, setting a career high for assists in one calendar month. (His previous high was 15 in March 2014.) Giroux’s 16 assists this month are the most by a Flyers player in any calendar month since Peter Forsberg notched 17 assists for Philadelphia in October 2005.
Hellebuyck reaches 20 wins in record time
Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck recorded his 20th win of the season with a 42-save, 4-2 victory over the Islanders. Hellebuyck notched win #20 in his 31st game this season. That’s the fewest games any goaltender in Thrashers/Jets franchise history has needed to reach the 20-win plateau in one season. The previous mark was 34 games by Michael Hutchinson in 2014-15. Hellebuyck’s win on Friday improved his career record in games in which he faced more than 40 shots on goal to 5-0-2.
Aho: second verse, same as the first
Sebastian Aho scored the winning goal in the Hurricanes’ game against the Penguins on Friday, after doing the same in Carolina’s victory over the Canadiens on Wednesday. It’s the first time that a Hurricanes player scored the winning goal in each of two consecutive team games since Aho himself did so last season (Jan. 31 and Feb. 3, 2017). The last Carolina player other than Aho to score back-to-back game-winning goals was Victor Rask (Nov. 18-20, 2016).
Hat trick for Granlund
Mikael Granlund completed the second hat trick of his NHL career when he scored an empty-net goal to clinch a 4-2 victory for the Wild against the Predators. His other hat trick came last season in a 6-3 win at Vancouver on February 4. The only other player to produce a hat trick for the Wild in each of two or more consecutive seasons is Marian Gaborik, who had a four-season streak from 2001-02 through 2005-06.
Rookie Compher knocks in power play goal in OT
J.T. Compher’s power play goal in overtime gave the Avalanche a 4-3 win over the Maple Leafs. Compher is only the fourth rookie to score a regular-season overtime goal for the Avs since the Quebec Nordiques moved to Colorado in 1995. The other rookies to score OT goals for the Avalanche were Gabriel Landeskog (March 2012), Tyson Barrie (March 2013) and Mikko Rantanen (February 2017).