Leonard and Gasol reminiscent of another fearsome frontcourt in San Antonio
• Forward Kawhi Leonard shot 10-for-13 from the floor and led all scorers with 31 points, and center Pau Gasol added 22 points and made all nine of his field-goal attempts in the Spurs’ 134–94 home win over the Lakers. San Antonio became the first team this season to have two starting frontcourt players score at least 20 points and shoot better than 75% from the field. The last time the Spurs did that was on Dec. 16, 1997 at Denver, with rookie forward Tim Duncan and Hall-of-Fame center David Robinson.
Lakers suffer another big loss
• The Lakers’ 134–94 loss at San Antonio was the team’s fifth by a margin of at least 40 points over the last four seasons. In the franchise’s first 65 seasons in the NBA (1948–49 through 2012–13), the Lakers suffered a combined total of four losses by at least 40 points.
O’Quinn big in three categories in limited playing time
• Kyle O’Quinn scored 12 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, and blocked four shots while playing 16 minutes, 57 seconds of the Knicks’ 104–89 win over the visiting Bulls. Since the NBA started recording blocked shots in 1973, only one other player has put up double-digit totals in points and rebounds with at least four blocks while playing less than 18 minutes. The Pistons’ Edgar Jones had 10 points, 10 rebounds, and four blocked shots in 15 minutes against Washington on Nov. 19, 1981.
Green doesn’t need to score to help Golden State
• Draymond Green missed all four of his shots from the field, but contributed 13 assists and nine rebounds in the Warriors’ 127–107 home win over the Pistons. It’s the second time that Green has matched those totals of assists and rebounds in a game in which he didn’t make a shot from the floor; he also did that in an overtime win at Oklahoma City last February. All other players in NBA history have combined for just three zero-FG/13-assist/9-rebound games: Wilt Chamberlain in November 1967, Norm Van Lier in January 1971, and Jason Kidd in February 2000.
An unusual win by the Mavs
• The Mavericks beat the Suns, 113–108 in Mexico City despite grabbing 15 fewer rebounds than Phoenix (47–32) and shooting worse from the field (48.7%-48.3%), from three-point range (55.6%–44.1%) and from the free-throw line (81.5%–70.6%.) With Dallas’s win, NBA teams getting outrebounded by a margin of at least 15 while also posting worse field-goal, three-point, and free-throw percentages are 19–1038 (.018) all-time. Three of the wins belong to the Mavs, who also beat the Kings in March 1987 and the Clippers in April 2000.
Nuggets tie their most points in a regulation-length game vs. Pacers
• Nikola Jokic led all scorers with 22 points in the Nuggets’ 140–112 win over the Pacers in London. Denver’s 140 points matched its highest total in a non-overtime game against Indiana. The two teams have met 85 times in regular-season play since they both joined the NBA in 1976. Before that, they faced each other 91 times in the American Basketball Association regular season and another 19 times in that league’s playoffs. On April 4, 1976, in the penultimate regular-season ABA contest for both teams, the Nuggets prevailed, 140–134, with Dan Issel scoring 27 points and David Thompson adding 26 for Denver.
A big fourth quarter for Evans
• Tyreke Evans came off the bench to lead all players with 29 points and four steals in the Pelicans’ 104–95 win at Brooklyn. Evans contributed 14 points and three steals over the game’s final 12 minutes. The last New Orleans player to match those totals in the fourth quarter of a game was Baron Davis, who had 14 points and four steals in a loss to Washington on March 1, 2004.
McDavid has two assists on the eve of his 20th birthday
• Connor McDavid, on his final day as a teenager, assisted on two goals in the Oilers’ 3–2 victory against the Devils, including Leon Draisaitl’s game-winning goal in overtime. McDavid, who turns 20 years old on Friday, has racked up 98 points in the 89 games he’s played in the NHL (30 goals, 68 assists). The only other active players who recorded at least 98 points in the NHL as a teenager are Sidney Crosby (222), Jaromir Jagr (108), Jeff Skinner (107), Steven Stamkos (107), Nathan MacKinnon (101) and Matt Duchene (98).
Wild score on seven of 24 shots on goal
• The Minnesota Wild matched their team record for largest margin of victory in a home game with a 7–1 win against the Canadiens at Xcel Energy Center. (They would have set a new record, but with Minnesota leading 7–0 Tomas Plekanec scored for Montreal with 8.5 seconds left to play.) The Wild won three other home games by a six-goal margin, the most recent of them a 6–0 victory against the Canucks in October 2005. Minnesota scored seven times in Thursday’s game despite registering only 24 shots on goal against Carey Price and the Canadiens. It was only the third time this season that an NHL team scored as many as seven goals in a game in which it had no more than 24 shots on goal, but it was the second such performance for the Wild. Minnesota had only 21 shots on goal in its 7–4 win against the Rangers in New York on December 23.
Saros comes up big for Nashville
• Nashville rookie Juuse Saros stopped 35 of the 36 shots on goal against him in his 2–1 win against the Bruins on Thursday. Saros’ 35 saves are the most ever made by a Predators rookie goaltender in a game in which he allowed no more than one goal. The previous high was 34 saves, done four times: by Tomas Vokoun in 1998, Pekka Rinne in 2009, Anders Lindback in 2012, and by Saros earlier this season when he recorded his first NHL win with a 5–1 victory against the Penguins (October 22).
Gibson extends hot streak
• John Gibson, making his 10th consecutive start in goal for the Ducks, recorded a 4–1 victory against the Avalanche in Denver. Gibson is 6–1–3 with a 1.66 goals-against average and .944 save percentage over his last 10 games. The only NHL goaltender with more wins over the same span (Dec. 22 to date) than Gibson is Sergei Bobrovsky (7–1–0).
Karlsson racks up points vs. Pittsburgh
• Erik Karlsson assisted on two of the Ottawa Senators’ four goals in their win over the Penguins. Karlsson has racked up 21 assists in the 23 games he’s played against Pittsburgh in his eight seasons in the NHL. That’s Karlsson’s highest assist total versus any NHL team and the third-most assists that any NHL player has recorded against the Penguins over the last eight seasons. The two players with more assists versus Pittsburgh since 2009–10 than Karlsson are Nicklas Backstrom (25) and Claude Giroux (23).
Niemi beats his favorite opponent
• Stars goaltender Antti Niemi made 31 saves in his 5–2 victory against the Red Wings in Dallas. Niemi is 14–3–3 with a 1.91 goals-against average in his 20 career games versus Detroit. His .775 points percentage against the Red Wings is the highest among the 21 active goaltenders who’ve played at least 10 games versus Detroit. Corey Crawford (15–3–4, .773) had been at the top of the list before Niemi’s win on Thursday.
Another two-goal game for Granlund
• Markus Granlund scored two goals for the Canucks in their shootout loss to the Flyers in Philadelphia. It was Granlund’s second two-goal game this season, tying Sven Baertschi for the Vancouver team high. Granlund’s first two-goal game was against the Flames last Friday. He’s the first Canucks player to register a pair of multiple-goal games within a span of seven days (or less) since Alex Burrows produced two in six days 34 months ago (March 12 and 17, 2014).
Palat on a hot streak after slow start to season
• Ondrej Palat tallied two goals and an assist to lead the Lightning to a 4–2 victory against the Sabres in Tampa. Palat scored only four goals in 30 games this season before the Christmas break but he leads Tampa Bay with five goals in eight games since the break. Palat’s two-goal game was the eighth of his NHL career and his seventh multi-goal game on home ice in Tampa.