Elias Says: Jan. 20, 2017

LeBron gets 15 assists but falls short of a presidential distinction

LeBron James contributed 21 points and 15 assists to the Cavaliers in their 118-103 victory over the visiting Suns. That matched the most assists that James had ever earned in a regulation-length NBA game, either regular season or playoffs. He had previously been credited with 15 assists in four regulation-length games, all with the Cavaliers, though he finished with 16 assists in a double-overtime victory for the Heat against the Kings in February 2013.

But LeBron finished 17 points short of a distinction that will instead forever be a bullet point on the resume of Kevin Durant. Durant, who did not play on Thursday, scored a total of 16,053 points during the eight years of Barack Obama’s presidency, the highest total for any NBA player. James, with 16,036 points, came up just short of Durant’s total.

Ask your basketball- and politically-savvy friends this question: Which NBA player scored the most points during the tenure of any president? Think of the greats… Wilt, Oscar, West, Jordan, Ike, JFK, Reagan, or anyone else. Top scorers, one-termers, two-termers. Take it all into account. If you’d like to think about it, without reading the answer right away, stop reading right now and consider your best guess, and remember, it must be a pair of names – a scorer and a president.

If you’re still with us, we’ll start out with the bronze medal. In third place was Karl Malone, who scored 16,164 during Bill Clinton’s presidency. The silver medal belongs to Kobe Bryant, who produced 17,340 points with George W. Bush in the White House. And the all-time leader? None other than Alex English, who scored 17,423 points during Ronald Reagan’s eight years as Commander-in-Chief.

30 times 5 equals Leonard

Kawhi Leonard continued on his merry way, scoring 34 points in the Spurs’ 118-104 triumph over the Nuggets. It was Leonard’s fifth consecutive game scoring 30-or-more points, and he became only the third Spurs player to string together five consecutive 30-point games since the team came into the NBA in 1976. George Gervin had six such streaks from 1979 to 1982, with the longest a 10-game run back in January 1980; and Mike Mitchell had six consecutive 30-point efforts in March 1986.

Leonard finished the game with 1003 points in 40 games this season. The last Spurs player to reach 1000 points in a season in 40 or fewer games was Tim Duncan, who also reached the four-figures plateau in his 40th game of the 2001-02 season. The only other Spurs players to reach 1000 points in an NBA season by their 40th game were George Gervin (seven times) and David Robinson (four times).

Wall does it all

John Wall produced a team-high 29 points, including two free throws, a driving dunk and a game-clinching steal to overcome the Knicks’ one-point lead over the game’s last 33 seconds, and the Wizards took a 113-110 decision in New York. Wall also finished with 13 assists for the second straight night, lifting his season total to 410 assists in 40 games. Only one other player in Wizards franchise history had generated that many assists over his first 40 games of a season: Rod Strickland accumulated 425 assists over his first 40 games in the 1997-98 season.

Late surge for Towns

Karl-Anthony Towns scored 15 of his game-high 37 points in the fourth quarter as the visiting Timberwolves overcame a 58-46 third-quarter deficit to top the Clippers, 104-101, ending a seven-game winning streak for the Clippers. For Towns, it was the highest fourth-quarter points total of his NBA career, eclipsing the 14 points that he scored in the fourth quarter at Portland last April 9. And for the Timberwolves, it marked their first victory in 11 games decided by four-or-fewer points this season. Prior to Thursday night, Minnesota had been the lone NBA team that had not won a game in that manner this season.

Dragic leads Heat to home win

Goran Dragic poured in 32 points as the Heat overcame a fourth-quarter deficit to defeat the Mavericks, 99-95. The game was played in Miami, which kind of figures: Dragic lifted his average in home games to 22.1 points per game, compared to 17.4 points in road games. That difference of nearly five points per game is the second largest for any NBA player this season (considering players who have appeared in at least 10 home games and 10 road games), behind Anthony Davis. The Pelicans star has averaged 31.1 points per game at home, 25.9 on the road.

Grabner grabs a spot in New York’s hockey history

Michael Grabner scored two goals, his 20th and 21st this season, in the Rangers’ 5-2 win in Toronto. Grabner, who signed with the Rangers as a free agent last summer, reached the 20-goal mark twice previously in his NHL career, during his first two seasons with the Islanders (34 goals in 2010-11 and 20 goals in 2011-12). He’s only the third player to produce a 20-goal season for both the Islanders and the Rangers. The others were Ray Ferraro (Islanders: 3 times, Rangers: 1) and Pat LaFontaine (Islanders: 6, Rangers 1).

Weight doesn’t wait for his first win as Taveras stays hot

Doug Weight’s debut as an NHL head coach was a successful one, as the Islanders blanked the Stars, 3-0, in Brooklyn. Weight, who was named the Islanders’ head coach on Tuesday, replacing Jack Capuano, scored 1033 points during his 20-season NHL playing career. He’s the eighth individual to score 1000 or more points in the NHL and then serve as a head coach in the league. The others: Wayne Gretzky, Phil Esposito, Bryan Trottier, Adam Oates, Denis Savard, Alex Delvecchio and Dale Hunter. Only two of the 29 other current NHL head coaches scored as many as 300 points in the league: the Ducks’ Randy Carlyle (647) and the Stars’ Lindy Ruff (300).

John Tavares scored the first two goals for the Islanders. Tavares didn’t score a goal in the Islanders’ 4–0 win at Boston on Monday, but he had generated five goals in the two games before that (three at Florida and two at Carolina). It’s the first time that Tavares has scored seven goals over a four-game span during his eight seasons in the NHL. He has scored six goals over a four-game stretch three times, most recently in 2013-14.

Capitals’ 2nd straight 7-goal game

The Capitals bounced back from their 8-7 overtime loss in Pittsburgh on Monday with a 7-3 win in St. Louis. This is the first time that the Capitals have scored at least seven goals in each of two consecutive games since February 1993, when they reached double-figures in wins at St. Louis (10-6) and Los Angeles (10-3). Washington is the first NHL team to score at least seven times in two straight games since Nashville did it in its final two games of the 2013-14 season (7-5 vs. Chicago, 7-3 at Minnesota).

On Thursday night, the Capitals produced their seven goals in a game in which they took only 18 shots on goal. It was the lowest single-game total of shots on goal by an NHL team that scored at least seven goals in more than a decade, since the Flyers had only 16 shots on goal in a 7-4 victory at Anaheim on Nov. 15, 2006.

Busy Condon blanks the Blue Jackets

The Senators’ Mike Condon made 42 saves in his 2-0 win in Columbus. That ties the NHL season high for saves by a goaltender in a shutout, a standard set by Montreal’s Carey Price in his 3-0 blanking of the Canucks on November 2 and matched by Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck in a 3-0 victory over the Predators on November 27.

The only other goaltender in Senators history to earn a shutout in which he made at least 42 saves is Craig Anderson, who did it twice. Anderson made 47 saves in a 1-0 shootout victory at Toronto in February 2011 and he turned aside 42 shots in a 2-0 win over Buffalo in February 2013.

Niederreiter’s power play goals crucial for Wild

Nino Niederreiter scored two goals for the Wild, both on power plays, in Minnesota’s 4-3 victory against the Jets. Niederreiter’s first goal gave Minnesota a 2-1 lead in the first period; his second snapped a 3-3 tie with just over seven minutes remaining in the third period and proved decisive for the Wild. It was the second time that Niederreiter has scored two power play goals in one game this season, having previously done so against Pittsburgh on November 25. The only other NHL players with two multiple-PPG games this season are Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov and Winnipeg rookie Patrik Laine. Niederreiter also tied the Wild record for most games with multiple power play goals in one season. Marian Gaborik had two such games for Minnesota in both 2006-07 and 2007-08, and Marek Zidlicky (2008-09) and Mikko Koivu (2010-11) have done it since then.

Ellis scores a pair, thereby losing a team record

Defenseman Ryan Ellis scored two goals in an NHL game for the first time as the Predators jumped out to a 4-0 lead, and then held on for a 4-3 victory in Calgary. Ellis, who has spent his entire NHL career with Nashville, entered play on Thursday with the most lifetime goals for the Predators (35) among players who had never produced a multiple-goal game for the club. That distinction now belongs to defenseman Dan Hamhuis (now with Dallas), who scored 32 goals, but never more than one in any game, in his six seasons with Nashville (2003-04 to 2009-10).