Elias Says: Jan. 1, 2017

Information researched by Elias Sports Bureau, Inc.

Harden goes where no NBA player ever has

James Harden, like the rest of us, came into the last day of 2016 needing to get something done before we flipped the calendar. But in Harden’s case, he did something that no one in the 71-year history of the NBA had ever done. Perhaps you recall that on October 28, in the Thunder’s second game of the season, Russell Westbrook became the first NBA player since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1975 to score 50-plus points in a game while reaching double-figures in both rebounds and assists. Hours before the ball dropped in Times Square, Harden went Westbrook – and everyone else – one better.Harden led the Rockets to a 129-122 victory over the visiting Knicks in his team’s 15th annual New Year’s Eve game by generating 53 points, 16 rebounds and 17 assists. He became the first player in NBA history to reach 50 points and 15 assists in the same game – even without considering his rebounding haul! Harden also tied Wilt Chamberlain's NBA record, set in 1968, for most points in a triple-double. Wilt had 53 points, 32 rebounds and 14 assists for the 76ers in a game against the Lakers. Harden’s 17 assists on Saturday night produced 42 points on field goals by his teammates (eight of the assists came on three-pointers), so Harden finished the game with a combined total of 95 points that he either scored himself or on which he assisted. The only player in NBA history who had a higher total in a single game was Wilt Chamberlain, who, in his 100-point game in 1962, was also credited with two assists, yielding a total of 104 points that he either scored or on which he assisted.Harden finished the month of December with 194 assists, breaking the Rockets’ record of 183 assists in one month that he had just set in November.

Brogdon makes 1st triple-double, but Giannis makes history

Rookie Malcolm Brogdon earned the first triple-double of his NBA career, collecting 15 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists against the Bulls on Saturday night. It was the first triple-double by a Bucks player other than Giannis Antetokounmpo since Larry Sanders earned a triple-double with 10 points, 12 rebounds and 10 blocks in a 95-85 loss to the Timberwolves on Nov. 30, 2012. Antetokounmpo has put together seven triple-doubles since Sanders had his big game four years ago, and while he didn’t finish with a triple-double, he wasn’t exactly silent in the Bucks’ 116-96 New Year’s Eve victory at Chicago: Antetokounmpo produced 35 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and seven blocked shots; he became the first NBA player since the league began recording blocked shots in 1973 to help his team to a road victory with a game of 35-or-more points along with at least seven rebounds, seven assists and seven blocked shots. In fact, there had been only four other occasions since 1973 on which a player finished with a 35-7-7-7 game, regardless of where it was played and whether his team won. Anthony Davis did it in a double-overtime loss for the Pelicans on March 15, 2015; Julius Erving did it for the 76ers in 1982; and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did it twice for the Lakers, once in 1975 and again in 1980 (the latter coming in a four-overtime loss to the Cavaliers).

“Worst Year Ever,” some say? Not for Westbrook

Russell Westbrook earned his 16th triple-double of the season (17 points, 12 rebounds and 14 assists), in just his 34th game, as the Thunder eased to a 114-88 victory over the Clippers. Westbrook’s total of 16 triple-doubles by New Year’s Eve is the second-highest by any player in NBA history; in the 1961-62 season, Oscar Robertson had earned 22 triple-doubles (in 37 games) by the time that Guy Lombardo rang in the New Year. (That ’61-’62 season was the one in which The Big O went on to average a triple-double – and that was the same season in which Wilt Chamberlain averaged over 50 points per game and scored 100 in one game.)Westbrook earned Saturday night’s triple-double when he pulled down a defensive rebound about 35 seconds before halftime. He became the first NBA player this season to produce a triple-double in a game’s first half. Last April 11, Westbrook became the first NBA player since Kevin Johnson in 1997 to garner a first-half triple-double. But against the Clippers on New Year’s Eve, Westbrook beat his April 11 performance by some 23 seconds: in that game, he clinched the triple-double with 11 seconds left in the first half.

LeBron, now 32, scores 32

LeBron James, in his first game as a 32-year-old, scored 32 points to lead the Cavaliers to their 121-109 victory in Charlotte. And, yes, we did look it up: The last player to score as many points as his age in his first regular-season game following an in-season birthday was Shaquille O’Neal, who scored 32 points against the Nets on March 7, 2004, a day after turning 32.Playing without the injured Kyrie Irving, James scored 17 points in the first quarter, matching his highest-scoring first quarter in the calendar year of 2016. He scored 17 opening-period points in a game against Denver on March 21.

Gobert joins Wilt in the record book

Rudy Gobert made seven of his eight field-goal attempts in the Jazz’s 91-86 win over the Suns, and finished the month with 77 field goals in 99 attempts – a remarkable 77.8 percent! It was the third-highest field-goal percentage in NBA history for a player who made at least 60 field goals in a month. The two higher marks were both produced by Wilt Chamberlain in the 1972-73 season, his last one as an active NBA player. Wilt made 80.6 percent of his shots in November of 1972, and then hit on 78.0 percent in March of that season.The Jazz enters the new year with a record of 21-13 (.618), its best record through December 31 of any season since Utah had a 22-11 (.667) mark through games of Dec. 31, 2010.

Daniels finishes December with 50 threes

Troy Daniels knocked down three three-point field goals in the Grizzles’ 112-98 victory at Sacramento, lifting his total for the month to 50 treys in his 17 games during December, marking only the third time in franchise history that a player made 50 three-pointers in a month. Mike Miller made 57 in December 2006 and 51 in January 2007.

Atkinson shines in historic game

Cam Atkinson scored two goals as the Blue Jackets extended their winning streak to 15 games and ended the Wild’s 12-game winning streak with a 4-2 victory. The game itself earned a place in history as soon as the puck was dropped: It was the first game in the history of the NHL, NBA, NFL, MLS, WNBA or Major League Baseball in which each team entered play on a winning streak of 12-or-more games.Atkinson established a career high for points in a calendar month by producing 16 points in November (6 goals, 10 assists) and he topped that by racking up 17 points in December (9 goals, 8 assists). He’s the first player in Blue Jackets history to produce at least 16 points in each of two consecutive calendar months.

Bobrovsky ties NHL record for wins in one month

Sergei Bobrovsky made 29 saves in the Blue Jackets’ victory, extending his personal winning streak to 13 games. Bobrovsky was in goal for the victory against Tampa Bay on November 29 that began the Blue Jackets’ 15-win run, and he won all 12 games that he played in December, tying the NHL record for wins by a goaltender in one calendar month. That mark was set by the Flyers’ Bernie Parent in March 1974 (12-1-2), and was later equaled by Ottawa’s Ray Emery in March 2006 (12-2-2) and Detroit’s Jimmy Howard in March 2010 (12-2-1).

Kreider follows Puempel with hat trick

Chris Kreider scored three goals in the Rangers’ 6-2 win in Colorado on Saturday, after Matt Puempel did the same in the New Yorkers’ victory in Arizona on Thursday. It marked only the second time in the last 22 seasons that Rangers players enjoyed hat tricks in consecutive games. The last instance came in 2014, when Rick Nash had a three-goal game versus the Capitals on December 23 and Derek Stepan matched him against the Devils four days later. But get this: Puempel and Kreider were the first players to produce hat tricks for the Rangers in consecutive games on one road trip since March 22-24, 1978, when Ron Greschner scored three goals in a 6-1 win at St. Louis and Phil Esposito and Ron Duguay both scored three times in an 11-4 victory at Washington.

Rask makes Sabres call him their daddy

Tuukka Rask continued his recent domination of the Sabres as he led the Bruins to a 3-1 victory on Saturday afternoon. Rask has won his last nine games against Buffalo (dating back to December 2013), including four games this season. Rask is the only NHL goaltender with four wins over one team this season, and he’s the first Bruins netminder to win four consecutive games against Buffalo within one season since 1982-83, when Pete Peeters beat the Sabres each of the first five times that he faced them.

You’ve seen this headline before: Malkin’s goal wins it in OT

The Penguins trailed, 3-2, heading into the final minute of the third period in their game against the Canadiens on Saturday, but Conor Sheary’s goal with 55 seconds left to play tied the score and Evgeni Malkin’s goal at the 1:54 mark of overtime lifted the Penguins to a 4-3 victory. Malkin, who has spent his entire NHL career with Pittsburgh, has scored 10 regular-season overtime goals, the second-most in Penguins history, behind Mario Lemieux with 11. Malkin is one of the four active NHL players who have scored at least 10 regular-season overtime goals for one team. The others are Alex Ovechkin (Capitals, 18), Daniel Sedin (Canucks, 14) and Shane Doan (Coyotes, 11).

Carter’s 10th consecutive 20-goal season

Jeff Carter’s 20th goal of the season was pivotal in the Kings’ 3-2 win over the visiting Sharks; it was his seventh game-winning goal of the season, the most by any NHL player (one ahead of Artem Anisimov). Carter was one of four players who scored 20-or-more goals in every season from 2007-08 through 2015-16, the others being Patrick Kane, Alex Ovechkin and Jonathan Toews. But among the four of them, only Carter has produced a score of scores so far this season – Kane has 11; Ovechkin, 17; and Toews, six.

Hedman is head man for assists in a month by Lightning defenseman

Victor Hedman and Nikita Kucherov each earned a pair of assists in the Lightning’s 3-1 win over the Hurricanes. Hedman finished with 14 assists in 14 games in December, after never exceeding 10 assists in any previous calendar month during his eight seasons in the NHL. His total of 14 assists in December set a record for a Lightning defenseman in a single month, and stands as the third-highest total that any NHL defenseman produced in any month this calendar year. Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson and Calgary’s T.J. Brodie each racked up 15 assists in February 2016.

Islanders end 2016 in strong fashion

John Tavares was one of the six players who scored a goal for the Islanders in their 6-2 victory in Winnipeg. The Islanders won four of the last five games in 2016, and they scored at least four goals in each of those five games. This is only the second time since 1994 that the Islanders have scored four goals or more in each of five consecutive games, having also done that in five straight games November 2009, when Tavares was in his second month in the NHL. The Islanders’ four-goal margin of victory over the Jets matched their largest edge in any road win during the last 11 seasons (done four other times, last in a 4-0 win at Columbus on Oct. 20, 2015).

Jagr ends December with 11 points

Jaromir Jagr contributed a goal and an assist to the Panthers in their 3-1 win at Dallas. Jagr scored 11 points in December (three goals, eight assists in 15 games), second-most among Florida players, behind Aleksander Barkov with 13. This is the fifth time that Jagr has generated a double-digit points total in a calendar month since he joined the Panthers in late February 2015, less than two weeks after he turned 43 years of age.

Ovechkin’s goal is his 20th against Devils

Alex Ovechkin scored one goal and assisted on another as the Capitals closed out the year with a 6-2 win over the Devils in Newark. Ovechkin’s goal was the 20th that he has scored in his 43 regular-season games against New Jersey. The only other active NHL players who have produced at least 20 goals against the Devils are Jaromir Jagr (36), Sidney Crosby (28), Marian Hossa (21) and Evgeni Malkin (20).

Flames’ power play turnaround from November to December

The Flames scored four goals in the first period against the Coyotes, including two on the power play, and went on to take a 4-2 decision. Calgary finished the month of December having scored on 34.7 percent of its power plays (17-for-49), a dramatic turnaround from its performance on the power play during November: 4-for-42, for 9.5 percent. The Flames are just the second NHL team over the last 10 years whose power play percentage went from below 10 percent in one calendar month to 30 percent or higher in the next. The Blue Jackets went 2-for-31 (6.5 percent) with the man advantage in February 2015 and then 12-for-37 (32.4 percent) in March.It was the first time in exactly 28 years that the Flames had scored four first-period goals against the Coyotes franchise, which relocated to Arizona from Winnipeg in 1996. On Dec. 31, 1988, the Flames scored four times in the first period but could do no better than a 4-4 tie.

Markstrom stout in Canucks’ shootout win

Jacob Markstrom made 42 saves and then stopped all three shots that he faced in the shootout as Vancouver won, 3-2, in Edmonton. The only other goalie to win a shootout with at least 40 saves for the Canucks in the last five seasons was Ryan Miller on Jan. 17, 2016 against the Islanders (47 saves followed by three unsuccessful attempts in the shootout).