Elias Says: March 29, 2017

Wizards clinch first division title in 38 years

With their win over the Lakers, the Wizards clinched the Southeast Division title. Washington hasn’t finished a season in first place since 1978–79, when the Bullets won the Atlantic Division before eventually losing to the Seattle SuperSonics in the NBA Finals. No team in any of the four major North American sports has gone as long since its last first-place finish. The longest drought now belongs to the Edmonton Oilers, who won their last regular-season division championship in 1986–87, finishing in first in the NHL’s Smythe Division. The Oilers won the Stanley Cup that season, and have actually won it twice more since then, in 1987–88 and 1989–90.

Rubio & Towns make all their free throws in one-point win

Ricky Rubio went 13-for-13 from the free-throw line and Karl-Anthony Towns was 10-for-10 from the charity stripe in the Timberwolves’ 115–114 win at Indiana. Rubio and Towns are the first pair of teammates in NBA history, regular season or playoffs, to each go 10-for-10 or better from the foul line in a one-point win. The last duo to do that in any game was the Bulls’ Jimmy Butler and Pau Gasol in a nine-point victory over the Raptors on Dec. 22, 2014.

Nurkic gains revenge on former team

Jusuf Nurkic, playing his first game against the Nuggets since Denver traded him to Portland last month, scored a career-high 33 points and grabbed 16 rebounds in the Trail Blazers’ 122–113 home win. Nurkic is the first player in NBA history to put up at least 30 points and 15 rebounds in his first game against a team he’d played for earlier that season. Three players previously had 30-point/10-rebound games under these circumstances: Dominique Wilkins for the Clippers at Atlanta in March 1994 (36 pts, 10 reb), Juwan Howard for the Nuggets against Dallas in March 2002 (30, 10), and Al Harrington for the Knicks versus Golden State in November 2008 (36, 12).

Heat finally win at the buzzer

Hassan Whiteside’s tip-in as time expired gave the Heat a 97–96 win at Detroit. Miami hadn’t hit a game-winning field goal at the buzzer (i.e., with no time left on the clock) in the regular season since Dwyane Wade did so against the Bulls on March 9, 2009 (LeBron James did hit a walkoff field goal against the Pacers in the 2013 playoffs). The Heat’s streak of 650 games without a buzzer-beating win was the longest by any NBA team since the Rockets had a 676-game drought from 2005 to 2013.

Harden’s shooting touch is off in triple-double

James Harden made just five of 20 field goals but still managed to score 24 points to go along with his 11 rebounds and 13 assists as the Rockets lost at home to the Warriors, 113–106. It was the second time in 2017 that Harden shot 25% from the floor in a 20-point triple-double – he was 6-for-24 against the Wizards on Jan. 2. The only other player in NBA history with more than one such game in his career (triple-double with 20+ points and a FG% of 25% or worse) is Oscar Robertson, who had three (in 1961, 1965, and 1968).

Backcourt shoots Bucks to victory

The Bucks’ starting guards Tony Snell (10-for-14) and Malcolm Brogdon (6-for-7) combined to make 16 of 21 field-goals (76.2%) in Milwaukee’s 118–108 win at Charlotte. The last time the Bucks’ starting backcourt combined to make at least 75% of its shots in a road game (minimum 20 FGA) was on Dec. 1, 1981. In that game, a 126–110 victory at Cleveland, Sidney Moncrief shot 16-for-19 and Quinn Buckner was 7-for-10 for a combined field-goal percentage of 79.3%.

Schroder leads Hawks to win despite turnovers

Dennis Schroder led all players with 27 points but also committed eight turnovers in the Hawks’ 95–91 home win over the Suns. It was the second time in four games that Schroder turned the ball over at least eight times – he was charged with 10 turnovers in a loss at Washington last Wednesday. Since the NBA started recording turnovers for individuals in 1977, the only other Atlanta player to have two eight-turnover games over a span of four-or-fewer games is Eddie Johnson, who had two over three games in February 1985.

If Covington has 20 points, it’s safe to assume he also has 10 rebounds

Robert Covington scored 21 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in the 76ers’ 106–101 win at Brooklyn. Covington has put up at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in seven of his last 25 games, dating back to late January. What’s odd is that he hasn’t had as many as 20 points or as many as 10 boards in any other game over that span.

Matthews breaks two rookie records

Auston Matthews set a Maple Leafs record for goals in one season by a rookie when he scored the first goal in Toronto’s 3–2 win over the Panthers. It was Matthews’ 35th goal in his first season in the NHL, breaking the old mark of 34 goals by a Leafs rookie which Wendel Clark had owned since 1985–86. This was the 14th time that Matthews scored the first goal in a game, breaking the old NHL single-season rookie record of 13 which Chicago’s Bill Mosienko set in 1943–44 and Mike Bossy matched with the Islanders in 1977–78. Matthews has scored a total of 20 goals which gave his team a lead. He’s the fourth rookie in NHL history to score at least 20 go-ahead goals in one season. The others were Teemu Selanne (22 for Winnipeg in 1992–93), Alex Ovechkin (22 for Washington in 2005–06) and Bossy (20 for the Islanders in 1977–78).

Chara earns 600th point

Zdeno Chara recorded the 600th point of his NHL career when he assisted on the first goal in the Bruins’ 4–1 win over the Predators. Chara, a native of Slovakia, is seventh defenseman born outside of North America to register 600 or more points in the NHL. The others are Nicklas Lidstrom (1142), Sergei Gonchar (811), Borje Salming (787), Sergei Zubov (771), Roman Hamrlik (638) and Teppo Numminen (637).

Ovechkin scores three against one of his favorite goalies

Alex Ovechkin notched the 17th regular-season hat trick of his NHL career by scoring three goals for the Capitals in their 5–4 overtime win versus the Wild in Minnesota. Ovechkin scored all of his goals against Minnesota goaltender Devan Dubnyk, who was also the victim for Ovechkin’s 14th career hat trick. That came in Washington’s 4–3 victory in St. Paul on Feb. 11, 2016. Ovechkin has scored 11 goals off Dubnyk in the six games they’ve played against each other and he scored at least once in each of those games.

Talbot wins as Oilers clinch playoff berth

Cam Talbot made 34 saves in his 2–1 win against the Kings in Edmonton which clinched the Oilers’ first playoff berth since 2006, when they lost the Stanley Cup Final to Carolina in seven games. Talbot lost all four games he played versus the Kings last season, but he’s won all three of his games against them this season and allowed only two goals in the process. Edmonton’s streak of 10 consecutive seasons missing the playoffs (2006–07 through 2015–16) tied the NHL record set by the Florida Panthers (2000–01 through 2010–11).

Weal scores winner in shootout

Rookie Jordan Weal scored the final goal in regulation time and then tallied the only goal in the shootout which earned the Flyers a 3–2 win over the Senators. This is only the fifth time that a rookie has scored the deciding goal in a shootout won by the Flyers during the 12 seasons that the NHL has used that tiebreaking format. The other Flyers rookies to score shootout deciders were Mike Richards (Dec. 2005), Matt Read (Feb. 2012), Michael Raffl (Dec. 2013) and Nick Cousins (March 2016). Weal is the first Flyers rookie to also score a “real” goal in a game in which he scored the shootout winner.

Pacioretty scores more frequently against the West

Max Pacioretty ended his six-game goal drought when he scored the Canadiens’ first goal in their 4–1 win against Dallas. Pacioretty leads Montreal with 34 goals this season but he’s scored the same number of goals in the 28 games he’s played versus Western Conference teams (17) as in the 48 games he’s played against Eastern Conference opponents. He’s the leading goal-scorer versus Western teams this season among players on Eastern Conference clubs.

Faulk extends multiple-point streak

Defenseman Justin Faulk produced two assists in the Hurricanes’ 4–1 win against the Red Wings in Raleigh, after he scored two goals when Detroit beat Carolina in overtime at the same venue on Monday. This is the third time that Faulk has tallied at least two points in each of two or more consecutive team games in one season during his six years in the NHL, all with Carolina. He had three straight multiple-point games in December 2015 and two in a row in November 2014. The last Hurricanes defenseman other than Faulk to produce consecutive multi-point games was Andrej Sekera in January 2014.

Bobrovsky is at his best when busy

Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky extended his home-ice winning streak to six games with a 3–1 victory against the Sabres in Columbus in which he made 41 saves. Bobrovsky has a 16–3–6 career record in regular-season NHL games in which he faced 40 or more shots on goal, including a 10–1–2 mark in his last 13 such games (dating back to December 2014).

Wheeler puts up two points in win

Blake Wheeler scored one goal and assisted on another for the Winnipeg Jets in their shootout win against the Devils in Newark. Wheeler tallied two points or more in only seven of his 64 games this season through the end of February, but he’s done it six times in 13 games in March. That ties his career high for multi-point games in one calendar month, a mark he set with six such games for the Jets in February 2012.