Elias Says: Jan. 3, 2018

Pop is now alone in fifth place on the wins list

Gregg Popovich earned his 1176th regular-season win as a head coach, passing George Karl to gain sole possession of fifth place in NBA history, as the Spurs won, 100–91 at New York. It was only the 11th of Popovich’s wins (against 20 losses) in which no starting player made as many as 45% of his shots from the floor.

The only other NBA team in either of the last two seasons to win a game by a margin of at least nine points when all of its starters shot below 45% is the Heat, which defeated the Grizzlies 90–81 on Nov. 25, 2016 and the Jazz 84–74 on Nov. 10, 2017.

Thomas makes the most of limited playing time in Cleveland debut

Isaiah Thomas made his much anticipated Cavaliers debut, scoring 17 points in 18:56 on the court as Cleveland defeated Portland, 127–110. Since the NBA started recording minutes played in 1951–52, only four other players have scored as many points and played less than 20 minutes in a win in their first game for a team: Joe Caldwell (21 points for the St. Louis Hawks in 1965), Johnny Neumann (21 for the Buffalo Braves in 1976), Richie Frahm (18 for Timberwolves in 2005), and Tim Thomas (20 for Suns in 2006.)

Suns stage big, late comeback

The Suns trailed the visiting Hawks, 97–85 with just over four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, but finished the game with a 19–6 run to shock Atlanta, 104–103. Phoenix hadn’t won a game it trailed by at least a dozen points with less than five minutes to go since Nov. 4, 2000, when they came back from 13 down with under three minutes remaining to win, 102–99 at Denver.

Booker & Warren each score 30+

Devin Booker (34 points) and TJ Warren (31) were the leading scorers in the Suns’ 104–103 home win over the Hawks. It was the second time this season that Booker and Warren each scored 30+ points in a game, having also done so against Minnesota on Nov. 11. The only other pairs of teammates to score at least 30 points in the same game more than once in 2017–18 are the Pelicans’ DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis (3 times) and the Clippers’ Austin Rivers and Lou Williams (twice.)

Two Williams are better than one

Lou Williams led all players with 33 points, and his teammate C.J. Williams (no relation) poured in 18 in the Clippers’ 113–105 home win over the Grizzlies. The only other pair of teammates with the same last name in Clippers franchise history to each score 15+ points in a game were Elmore and Randy Smith, who did so 49 times for the Buffalo Braves over the 1971–72 and 1972–73 seasons.

Hornets score 131 in road win

Nicolas Batum scored 21 points to lead a balanced scoring effort in the Hornets’ 131–111 win at Sacramento. Charlotte’s total of 131 points was its highest in a non-overtime road game since Jan. 11, 1993, when Larry Johnson scored 24 to lead the Hornets in a 132–113 victory at Dallas.

Rask continues hot streak

Boston’s Tuuka Rask made 25 saves in his 5–1 win against the Islanders in Brooklyn. Rask has won his last six games and in each of his last five games he allowed no more than one goal. This is only the third time in the team’s 93-year history that a Bruins goaltender has won five or more consecutive games in one season while giving up no goals or one goal in each game. Tim Thomas had a six-game streak of that kind in October 2010 and Rask had a five-game streak in the 2011–12 season (Dec. 10–Jan. 5).

Vasilevskiy blanks another road opponent

Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy notched his second consecutive shutout and league-leading sixth shutout of the season with a 2–0 win at Toronto. It was Vasilevskiy’s fifth road shutout of the 2017–18 campaign, setting a single-season record for a Tampa Bay goaltender. Entering play on Tuesday he had been tied for that mark with Ben Bishop, who recorded four road shutouts for the Bolts in 2015–16. This is the second time that Vasilevskiy has posted consecutive shutouts in his NHL career, having previously done so for the Lightning in November 2016. The last Tampa Bay goaltender other than Vasilevskiy to register two straight shutouts was Dwayne Roloson in January/February 2011.

Ovechkin scores tying, winning goals

Alex Ovechkin’s second goal of the game was the overtime winner for the Capitals in their 5–4 victory against the Hurricanes in Raleigh. Ovechkin’s first goal, which tied the score at 4–4 with 7:15 left to play in the third period, was the one which sent the game to overtime. Ovechkin’s winning tally was the 22nd regular-season overtime goal of his NHL career, extending his own league record. But only once before had Ovechkin scored a regular-season goal in OT after scoring the final goal of the third period. That was on Dec. 15, 2006, in a game against the Thrashers in Atlanta. Ovechkin tied the score 2–2 with 31 seconds left in regulation time and won the game with a goal just six seconds after the puck was dropped to begin the overtime period.

Kings score three fast goals on the power play

Marian Gaborik, Dustin Brown and Adrian Kempe each scored a power play goal for the Kings during a 2:58 span in the third period of their 5–0 win at Edmonton. The Oilers’ Patrick Maroon was given a match penalty with five seconds left to play in the second period and the Kings scored three goals during the resulting five-minute power play. The only other time the Kings scored three power play goals in less than three minutes was on Jan. 6, 1996, when Tony Granato, John Slaney and Dmitri Khristich each scored a PPG in a 1:26 stretch during a game against the Sharks at Great Western Forum.

The Kings scored as many power play goals in their first game of 2018 (three) as they did in the 13 games they played in December 2017, when their three power play goals were the fewest by any NHL team.

Ageless Cullen scores two goals for Minnesota

Matt Cullen scored two goals for the Minnesota Wild in its 5–1 win over the Panthers. The 41-year-old Cullen shattered the record for the oldest player to produce a multiple-goal game for the Wild. Until Tuesday that mark was held by Owen Nolan, who was 37 years, 281 days old when he scored two goals for Minnesota in a 3–2 victory over the Islanders on Nov. 20, 2009. This was the first multi-goal game by an NHL player age 40 or older since Jaromir Jagr (then 44 years old) tallied two goals for Florida versus Ottawa on March 10, 2016.

Bjorkstrand provides all the goals for Columbus

Oliver Bjorkstrand scored both goals for the Blue Jackets in their 2–1 win against the Stars in Dallas. Bjorkstrand tied the game at 1–1 with a goal at the 4:54 mark of the third period and 78 seconds later (at 6:12) he scored to put the Blue Jackets ahead to stay. It’s the second time this season that a Columbus player has tallied two or more goals in a victory while scoring every one of the team’s goals. Rookie Sonny Milano did that in a 2–1 overtime win at Carolina on October 10. The Blue Jackets are the only NHL team who have won two games in that fashion this season.

MacKinnon racks up two points at home

Nathan MacKinnon scored one goal and assisted on another for the Avalanche in their 3–2 overtime win against the Jets in Denver. It was MacKinnon’s third consecutive multiple-point game and 15th multi-point performance this season, with 12 of them coming in Colorado. He’s tied with the Islanders’ Josh Bailey for the most home games with two points or more this season by an NHL player.

A rare scoring outburst by Reaves

Ryan Reaves scored one goal and assisted on another in the Penguins’ 5–1 win at Philadelphia on Tuesday. Reaves’ goal was the game-winner for Pittsburgh, snapping a 1–1 tie in the second period, and he assisted on a goal by Tom Kuhnhackl later in the period. This was only the second multiple-point performance for Reaves in an NHL career more noted for time spent in the penalty box (775 minutes) than piling up points (56, in 460 games). Reaves’ only other multi-point game was on April 25, 2013, when he scored two goals for the Blues against the Flames.

Meier scores two goals in road win

Timo Meier scored a pair of goals in the Sharks’ 4–1 win against the Canadiens in Montreal. It was Meier’s first two-goal game in the NHL and only the third multiple-goal game on the road for a Sharks player this season. The others are Logan Couture’s three-goal hat trick in a loss to the Islanders in Brooklyn on October 21, and Brent Burns’ two-goal game in an overtime loss at Vancouver on December 15. So Meier is the first San Jose player to score more than one goal in a Sharks road win this season.