OKC wins in Cleveland, 148-124: attention must be paid
Russell Westbrook supplied 23 points and 20 assists, and teammates Paul George (36), Carmelo Anthony (29) and Steven Adams (25) joined him in the 20-point circle, in the Thunder’s attention-demanding 148-124 victory at Cleveland. It was the second game of Westbrook’s NBA career in which he produced 20 points and 20 assists; he finished with 26 and 22, respectively, in a home win over the Suns in December 2016. Westbrook is the only active player with two 20-point, 20-assist games in his NBA career; in fact, Steve Nash is the only other player who has had two such games over the last quarter-century. Oklahoma City’s 24-point victory margin was the largest on the road in NBA history in a game in which one of its players had 20 points and 20 assists.
The view from the other side: OKC’s total of 148 points was by far the largest total surrendered by a LeBron James team in any of the 1106 regular-season games or 217 playoff games that he has played as a pro. The previous high for points allowed by one of LeBron’s teams in a regulation-length game had been established just nine days earlier, when the Cavaliers dropped a 133-99 decision at Toronto on January 11. James scored 18 points, falling seven points shy of reaching the plateau of 30,000 career points, one reached by only six players in NBA history. Instead, research reveals that no other player who has scored as many points as LeBron has, at any point of his NBA career, lost a home game by a margin of 20-or-more points while his team allowed as many as 148 points.
Paul stars as Rockets end Warriors’ streak
Chris Paul poured in 33 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to spark the Rockets in a 116-108 victory over the Warriors that wrote finis to the visitors’ 14-game road winning streak, matching the third-longest single-season road winning streak in NBA history. In 39 games during his NBA career, Paul has generated 30-or-more points and 10-or-more assists, but Saturday’s game was just the fourth in which he has scored 30-plus points and reached double-digits in rebounds. His last game of that type came while playing for New Orleans, on March 11, 2009, when he earned a triple-double with 30 points, 10 rebounds and 13 assists at Washington. Only two other NBA players over the past 25 seasons have gone as many as eight seasons between 30-point, 10-rebound games: Luol Deng (from February 2007 to February 2016) and Grant Hill (April 2000 to December 2010).
Embiid & 76ers: hot enough to evoke Barkley’s heyday
Joel Embiid scored 29 points and the 76ers outscored the Bucks, 32-14, during the fourth quarter as Philadelphia won for the seventh time in its last eight games, 116-94. It marked the first time in just over six years that the Sixers have won seven out of eight; the last time they did that was over Jan. 6-16, 2012, as part of a larger nine-wins-in-ten-games stretch under Doug Collins. Embiid has played in Philadelphia’s last seven games, averaging 24.3 points and 10.7 rebounds while the team has gone 6-1. The last Sixers player to average 24 points and 10 rebounds over seven consecutive games, during which the team won at least six times, was Charles Barkley in December of 1990!
Lou Williams: 10 steals, 31 points, but no cigar
The Jazz downed the Clippers, 125-113, in Salt Lake City, despite a remarkable defensive performance by Lou Williams. The veteran guard set a Clippers single-game record with 10 steals, a total that has been reached by only one other active NBA player (Draymond Green was credited with 10 steals in a victory at Memphis last February 10). The league began recording steals in the 1973-74 season. While there were 19 instances of 10-steal games from then until the turn of the century, there have been only four instances since then.
Williams scored a game-high 31 points on Saturday night, one point shy of the most points ever scored in a 10-steal game. Michael Jordan had 32 points and 10 steals in a 1988 win over the Nets.
Lillard’s hot shooting propels Blazers to 50/40/90 game
Damian Lillard scored 31 points, and made seven of his nine shots from behind the three-point arc, leading the Trail Blazers to a 117-108 victory over the Mavericks.
The final boxscore showed Portland hitting 52.3 percent of its field-goal attempts, 50 percent of its three-point attempts, and 90 percent of its free-throw attempts. It was Portland’s third 50/40/90 game this season (representing games in which a team made at least half of its shots from the floor, at least 40 percent of its three-point shots, and at least 90 percent of its foul shots). The only other teams with at least three such games this season are the Warriors (five) and the Cavaliers (four).
Olynyk makes game-winning FT; Hornets tie mark for close-game losses
Kelly Olynyk’s free throw with 0.2 seconds provided the game-winning point in the Heat’s 106-105 victory at Charlotte. Olynyk’s game-winning free throw capped a 14-point fourth quarter, matching his career high for points in the fourth period. He had previously scored 14 fourth-quarter points twice in his NBA career – both times this season, and both times on the road (at Boston on December 20 and at Chicago on January 15). Even better, the game against the Hornets marked the first time in Olynyk’s five seasons in the NBA that he has scored the game-winning point (that is, the point(s) that put his team ahead to stay) in the last minute of either the fourth quarter or any overtime period.
The Hornets suffered their 14th consecutive loss in games decided by one, two or three points, matching the longest such streak in the NBA’s 72-year history. The Knicks dropped 14 consecutive games of that type from December of 1959 to December of 1960, and the Rockets did so during the 1977-78 season.
Don’t overlook Pelicans’ Holiday
Jrue Holiday scored a team-high 27 points, making 10 of 19 shots from the floor, as the Pelicans got by the Grizzlies, 111-104. With all of the attention given DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis, who scored 24 and 21 in Saturday night’s victory, Holiday has been no slouch. Over 22 games since December 4, Holiday has averaged 22.1 points per game while shooting 54.2 percent from the floor and 40 percent from beyond the arc. Among all NBA players who have played in at least five games since December 4, no one has matched Holiday’s numbers in each of those three categories.
Wolves beat Raptors for 30th win
The Timberwolves overcame a double-digit deficit to defeat the visiting Raptors, 115-109, boosting their won-lost record for the season to 30-18. It marks the earliest in a season, in terms of games, that Minnesota has won 30 games since the 2003-04 season, when the Wolves needed only 42 games to reach 30 wins.
Bulls were hot; Hawks were not
The Bulls made 40 of 80 shots from the floor and held the Hawks to 38-percent shooting as Chicago came away the winners in Atlanta, 113-97. It marked the ninth game this season in which the Bulls have made at least half of their field-goal attempts, and five of those nine games were played on the road.
Meanwhile, the Hawks made only 11 of their 48 three-point field-goal attempts. Their total of 37 missed three-pointers came up one short of the NBA record of 38 misses threes, set by the Rockets last February 2, when the Hawks held Houston to 13-of-51 shooting beyond the arc and earned a 113-108 comeback win in Houston.
Avs and MacKinnon extend their streaks
Nathan MacKinnon scored the decisive goal as the Avalanche recorded its ninth consecutive win with a 3-1 victory over the Rangers in Denver. Colorado’s nine-game winning streak is the longest in the NHL this season and the longest for the Avs since they won nine straight in October 2000.
MacKinnon has scored at least one goal in each of Colorado’s last five games, matching the longest goal-scoring streaks by an Avalanche player in any of the last 14 seasons. The other five-game goal streaks by Avalanche players since 2003-04 were by Milan Hejduk in March 2007 and Gabriel Landeskog in February 2015.
Big road comeback for Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and Connor Carrick scored the goals that enabled the Maple Leafs to overcome a 3-1 deficit entering the third period and nip the Senators, 4-3, in Ottawa. This was the first time that the Maple Leafs won a game in regulation time after trailing by two goals in the third period since a 5-2 victory against the Rangers in Toronto on Nov. 1, 2008. The Leafs trailed 2-0 through two periods in that game, and still trailed by that score with less than eight minutes left to play, but they scored five times in a span of five minutes and 21 seconds to pull out a shocking come-from-behind win. Before Saturday’s victory over the Senators, the Leafs’ last regulation-time road win in a game in which they trailed by two goals in the third period was in Tampa on Feb. 1, 2000 (trailed 3-1, won 5-3).
Pastrnak reaches 20 goals again
David Pastrnak scored his 19th and 20th goals of the season in the Bruins’ 4-1 win at Montreal. This is the second time that the 21-year-old Pastrnak has reached the 20-goal plateau in his four-year NHL career, having scored 34 goals for Boston last season. He’s the ninth player to score 20 or more goals in each of two seasons for the Bruins before turning 22 years of age. Among the other players to do it: Bobby Orr, Barry Pederson, Joe Thornton and Patrice Bergeron.
Two goals for our pal Elias
Elias Lindholm scored two goals in a game for the first time in two years to lead the Hurricanes to a 3-1 win in Detroit. Lindholm, whose last multiple-goal game was on Jan. 8, 2016 versus Columbus, scored both of his goals in Saturday’s game on Carolina power plays. This was the second time in five days that a player scored two power play goals in a game against the Red Wings. On Tuesday, Jason Spezza scored two PPGs for the Stars in their 4-2 win at Detroit. Before this week, no player had scored multiple power play goals in a game against the Red Wings since Dec. 5, 2015, when defenseman Shea Weber tallied three man-advantage goals for the Predators.
5-point game for rookie Pulock
Ryan Pulock became the first Islanders rookie defenseman ever to record five points in one game when he contributed a goal and four assists to the Isles’ 7-3 win in Chicago. The previous high for points in a game by an Islanders rookie defenseman was four, done twice by Denis Potvin (in 1973-74) and once by Jeff Norton (in 1988-89). Pulock’s five-point game is only the third in the last 27 seasons by a rookie defenseman on any NHL team; the others were produced by Nashville’s Dan Hamhuis on March 4, 2004 at Pittsburgh (one goal, four assists) and Philadelphia’s Alexandre Picard on Feb. 1, 2007 versus New Jersey (five assists). Pulock fell one shy of the NHL record for points in a game by a rookie backliner, set by Gary Suter with six points in Calgary’s 9-3 win against Edmonton on April 4, 1986.
Neuvirth takes long path to 100th win
Flyers goaltender Michal Neuvirth earned the 100th win of his NHL career with a 3-1 victory against the Devils on Saturday afternoon. Neuvirth has played 10 years in the NHL but has had only one season with 20 or more wins. That was 2010-11, when he finished with a 27-12-4 record as a rookie for Washington. The only other active NHL goaltender with 100 or more career wins but no more than one 20-victory season is James Reimer (122 wins), who had a 20-10-5 record for the Maple Leafs in 2010-11, his debut season in the league.
Coyotes score early and often in St. Louis
The Coyotes outscored the Blues, 4-0, in the first period and went on to win, 5-2, in St. Louis. It was the first game in which the Coyotes led by as many as four goals at the end of the first period since Nov. 17, 2001, when they led 4-0 after the opening 20 minutes en route to a 6-1 win on home ice against the Islanders. Before Saturday, the last time the Coyotes led by four goals at the end of one period in a road game was at Edmonton on March 30, 1999 (led 6-2 through 20 minutes and won 7-4).
Staal averages more than a point per game against Lightning
Eric Staal assisted on two goals for the Wild in its 4-3 win over the Lightning on Saturday. Staal has now accumulated 72 points in his 71 games against Tampa Bay (33 goals, 39 assists). That’s Staal’s second-highest career point total against one team (he has scored 73 points against Washington) and it’s the third-highest point total versus the Lightning among active NHL players, behind Alex Ovechkin (84) and Jaromir Jagr (83).
Subban’s 10th goal is a game-winner
P.K. Subban reached the 10-goal mark in a season for the sixth time in his NHL career and the second time in his two seasons with the Predators when he scored what proved to be the winning goal in Nashville’s 4-3 victory over the Panthers. Subban, who scored 10 goals for the Predators last season, is the third defenseman in Nashville team history to produce a double-digit goal total in each of his first two seasons with the club. The others were Andy Delmore (2001-02 and 2002-03) and Marek Zidlicky (2003-04 and 2005-06).
Dell’s latest victim: the Penguins
Aaron Dell allowed a goal in the first four minutes of the game but nothing else in a 31-save, 2-1 home win over the Penguins. Dell owns a 9-0-2 record for the Sharks since November 24. That’s the longest single-season streak of decisions without a regulation loss by a Sharks goaltender since Evgeni Nabokov’s 12-decision run in 2009-10 (9-0-3 from Oct. 24 through Nov. 21). Dell’s streak is tied for the fourth-longest in the NHL this season. The other goaltenders with streaks of 11 or more consecutive decisions without losing in 60 minutes: Boston’s Tuuka Rask (a current streak of 16 in a row), Tampa bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy (14), Carolina’s Cam Ward (12) and Chicago’s Corey Crawford (11).
Hellebuyck dominates Pacific Division
Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck made 30 saves in a 2-1 shootout victory at Calgary that ended the Flames’ winning streak at seven games. Hellebuyck is 10-1-0 with a 1.96 GAA in his 11 starts versus Pacific Division teams this season, with wins in each of his eight starts against teams from that division since he lost to the Golden Knights in Las Vegas on November 10.
A pair of defensemen earn 3 points each for Stars
John Klingberg (three assists) and Esa Lindell (one goal, two assists) each produced three points in the Stars’ 7-1 win at Buffalo. It was the first game this season in which an NHL team saw two of its defensemen produce at least three points apiece, and only the second game in the last 19 seasons in which two Stars defensemen did so. The last such game for the Stars came on Dec. 10, 2007, when Sergei Zubov earned four points (one goal, three assists) and Matt Niskanen three (one goal, two assists) in a 5-4 overtime win over the Oilers. Prior to the effort by Klingberg and Lindell, you had to go back over a year to find the last NHL game in which a team saw two of its defensemen each produce at least three points. Pittsburgh’s Justin Schultz (four assists) and Trevor Daley (three assists) did that in the Penguins’ 8-7 overtime win over the Capitals on January 16 of last year.
The Stars’ win on Saturday afternoon matched their largest margin of victory in a road game since the Minnesota North Stars moved to Dallas in 1993. They have had three other road wins by a margin of six goals representing Dallas, the most recent being an 8-2 victory at Toronto on Dec. 23, 2008.