An NBA first
The Bulls’ win over the Timberwolves on Friday night featured two players who scored at least 35 points in their first game against their former team. Jimmy Butler scored 38 points for the Timberwolves, while Zach Lavine scored 35 for the Bulls. It’s the first time in NBA history that two players, each playing in their first game against their former team, both scored at least 30 points on the same day, let alone the same game.
Butler’s 38 points are the most scored by a former Bull in his first game against the Bulls. The previous record for such a thing was 29 points scored by Michael Jordan in his first game against the Bulls in 2002.
James carries Cavs past Hawks
LeBron James scored 22 points and handed out 19 assists in the Cavaliers’ win over the Hawks. James has scored at least 20 points and handed out 10 or more assists in each of his last five games against the Hawks, the longest streak he has ever had against one team. James had a four-game streak of that sort against the Timberwolves from 2010 to 2012.
Only one other player had five consecutive games with at least 20 points and 10 assists against the Hawks. Oscar Robertson had three such streaks against them, including eight in a row in the 1966-67 season.
James also grabbed 12 rebounds giving him the 65th triple-double of his career. The only other active players to hand out at least 19 assists in a triple-double are Rajon Rondo (four times) and Russell Westbrook (three times).
LeBron, who turned 33 late in December, earned his 10th triple-double of the season Friday night, after he had 13 last season. In NBA history, only one other player as old as LeBron has produced 10 triple-doubles in each of two consecutive seasons. Jason Kidd earned 12 triple-doubles with the Nets in the 2006-07 season and then had 13 the next year, which he split between the Nets and the Mavericks, and which he finished at age 35.
Capela doesn’t need much time to reach 20/25
Clint Capela scored 23 points and grabbed 25 rebounds in 28 minutes and 41 seconds of playing time in the Rockets’ win over the Nuggets. It was the least playing time for any NBA player who finished a game with 20 points and 25 rebounds since the league began recording playing time in the early 1950s. The previous record: 29 minutes, 46 seconds by the Nuggets’ Kenneth Faried (26 points, 25 rebounds) on Dec. 26, 2014.
The big 5-oh for Lillard
Damian Lillard scored 50 points, all before the fourth quarter, in the Trail Blazers’ win over the Kings in Sacramento. Lillard is the first player to score 50 points before the fourth quarter in a road game since Kobe Bryant scored 51 points through three quarters at Denver on February 12, 2003.
CJ McCollum scored 50 points against the Bulls on January 31. The only other pair of teammates to each score 50 points in a game over a 10-day span were Larry Bird and Kevin McHale for the Celtics in the 1984-85 season. McHale scored 56 points on March 3, 1985, Bird scored 60 on March 12.
Embiid the first 76er since Sir Charles
Joel Embiid scored 24 points and grabbed 16 rebounds in the 76ers’ 100-82 win over the Pelicans on Friday night. It was the sixth 20/15 (points/rebounds) game for Embiid this season. Embiid is the first 76ers player with six 20/15 games before the All-Star break since Charles Barkley had six such games before the break in 1991-92.
It doesn’t matter who starts
Lou Williams came off the bench to score 26 points in the Clippers’ win over the Pistons. It was the 53rd time in his career that Williams scored 25 or more points in a game he did not start. The only active player with more such games is Jamal Crawford, who has 62.
Williams has scored 25 points as a substitute 12 times this season, twice as many as any other player. Rodney Hood is next on the list with six such games this season.
Oladipo scorches Celtics again
Victor Oladipo scored 35 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the Pacers win in Boston on Friday night. Oladipo has scored at least 35 points in each of his two games against the Celtics this season; he scored 38 against them on December 18. Oladipo is the first player to score 35 or more points against the Celtics twice in a Pacers uniform. Prior to this season, only four players in Pacers history scored 35 points in a game against the Celtics, none of them did it more than once: Billy Knight, Chuck Person, Reggie Miller and Paul George.
Heat win in Wade return
Dwyane Wade’s first game back in a Heat uniform proved to be the tonic that Miami needed, as it ended a season-high five-game losing streak with a 91-85 victory over the visiting Bucks. Wade scored three points off the bench, lifting his total to 20,224 points in 856 games with the Heat. Each of those figures is a franchise record, as is the total of 511 Miami wins in which he has played. No other player in Heat history has scored as many as 10,000 points. Miami is the only NBA franchise that has a 20,000-point scorer but no other 10,000-point scorers in its history.
Big comeback for the Islanders
Brock Nelson’s third goal of the game was the winner for the Islanders in their 7–6 overtime victory against the Red Wings, a game in which the Isles overcame a three-goal deficit late in the third period. Detroit seemed to be in control of the game, leading 5–2, when Tyler Bertuzzi was called for a match penalty with 6:33 left to play in the third period. The Islanders scored four power play goals during the ensuing five minutes of power play time to take a 6–5 lead, but the Red Wings tied the score in the final minute of the third period on a sixth-attacker goal by Mike Green. This was the first time that the Islanders earned a point from a game in which they trailed by three goals or more since their 7–4 win at Vancouver on March 10, 2014, when they outscored the Canucks 7–1 in the third period. The Islanders were 0–65–0 when trailing by three goals between that game and the one in Brooklyn on Friday.
Brock Nelson’s hat trick is the second of his NHL career, and it’s the third regular-season hat trick in Islanders history to include an overtime goal. The others were three-goal games by Patrick Flatley at Pittsburgh on Dec. 23, 1990 and Michael Grabner at Buffalo on Feb. 13, 2011.
Islanders rookie Mathew Barzal produced his third five-point game of the season with five assists against the Red Wings on Friday, including the pass which set up Brock Nelson’s overtime goal. The only other rookie ever to record three games with five points or more in one season is Hall of Famer Joe Malone, who did that for the Canadiens in 1917–18, the NHL’s inaugural season. All players that season are considered rookies by the NHL, even long-time pros like Malone who played in the NHA, the major hockey circuit before the NHL was formed. Barzal, who also notched five assists in the Islanders’ win versus Colorado on November 5, is the first rookie in NHL history with multiple five-assist games.
The Rangers have a King come off the bench and win
Henrik Lundqvist made 28 saves after replacing injured Rangers starter Ondrej Pavelec at the beginning of the second period and recorded a 4–3 victory against the Flames at Madison Square Garden. It was the 427th regular-season win of Lundqvist’s NHL career but only his third win in a game he did not start. Lundqvist’s first relief win came late in his rookie season via a shootout versus the Sabres (March 27, 2006), and the second was in a game against the Islanders five seasons later (Dec. 2, 2010). None of “the King’s” 61 career playoff wins have been in a relief role.
Holtby beats Bobrovsky again
Braden Holtby made 35 saves as he led the Capitals to a 4–2 win against Sergei Bobrovsky and the Blue Jackets in Washington. Holtby has won his last six head-to-head starts versus Bobrovsky (dating back to January 2017) and he’s 14–2–1 with a 2.27 GAA in his 17 career starts against him. Bobrovsky’s record in those 17 games is 3–10–4.
Rookies are scoring big goals for the Kings
Rookie Jonny Brodzinski’s goal late in the second period was the game-winning tally for the Kings in their 3–1 win against the Panthers in Florida. Brodzinski is the fourth rookie to score a game-winning goal for the Kings this season; the others are Adrian Kempe (3), Paul LaDue (2) and Alex Iafallo. The only other NHL team with as many as four rookies who’ve scored a game-winning goal for them this season is the Bruins: Jake DeBrusk (4), Danon Heinen (3), Sean Kuraly and Charlie McAvoy.
Tarasenko scores twice
Vladimir Tarasenko scored a pair of goals for the Blues in their 5–2 victory against the Jets in Winnipeg. It was Tarasenko’s fourth multiple-goal game this season and 20th multi-goal game over the last four seasons combined. The only other NHL players with 20 or more multiple-goal performances over the last four seasons are Alex Ovechkin (32), Sidney Crosby (23), Tyler Seguin (21), Jamie Benn (20) and Brad Marchand (20).
Goal #20 for Aho
Sebastian Aho scored his 20th goal of the season for the Hurricanes in their 4–1 win against the Canucks. Aho scored 24 goals for Carolina as a rookie last season. Since the Hartford Whalers moved to North Carolina in 1997, the only other player to score 20-plus goals for the Hurricanes in his rookie season and again the following season is Jeff Skinner (31 goals as a rookie in 2010–11, 20 goals in 2011–12). Aho has scored 13 goals (in 17 games) since December 23, tying Rickard Rakell for fourth-most in the NHL beginning with that date, behind Evgeni Malkin (18), Patrice Bergeron (16) and William Karlsson (14).
Three-assist game for Benn
Jamie Benn assisted on all three goals for the Stars in their shootout win against the Penguins. It was Benn’s first three-assist game this season and the 13th game with three or more assists in his NHL and Stars career. Benn has produced at least one three-assist game in each of the last eight seasons (with a high of three in 2014–15). The only other player in franchise history to register three-assist games for the Stars in each of at least eight consecutive seasons is Neal Broten, who did that in 10 straight seasons for the Minnesota North Stars (1981–82 through 1990–91).