First time, long time
Gonzaga and South Carolina met on Saturday marking the first time in 44 years that two schools, both making their Final Four debut, played against each other in the National Semifinals. The last such occurrence came in 1973 when Providence and Memphis State (as the school was then known) matched up in St. Louis. Memphis State won that game, but later lost to UCLA in the National Championship Game.
Meeks scores 25 in one-point win
Kennedy Meeks scored 25 points and made up for his two late missed free throws with a game-clinching offensive rebound that secured North Carolina’s 77–76 victory over Oregon. It is the 10th time that a team won by one point in the National Semifinals and Meeks is the fourth player to score at least 25 points in a one-point victory that sent his school to the Championship Game. The others were UCLA’s Richard Washington (26 points versus Louisville in 1975), North Carolina’s Mike O’Koren (31 against UNLV in 1977) and Kentucky’s Jeff Sheppard (27 vs. Stanford in 1998).
Clippers continue dominance of Lakers
The Clippers, who defeated the Lakers on Saturday afternoon, are 18–2 (.900) in that rivalry over the last five seasons. That is the best record over that span for one NBA team against a particular division opponent.
Griffin and Paul fashion impressive streak
The Clippers have won three consecutive games, thanks in large part to an impressive tandem. Blake Griffin and Chris Paul have led the way with more than 25 points apiece in each victory. Over the last 10 seasons only one other pair of NBA teammates each scored more than 25 points in three straight games all won by their team: Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook for the Thunder in February 2012.
Butler ties Jordan’s record
Jimmy Butler’s two free throws with two seconds remaining gave the Bulls a 106–104 victory over the Hawks. Butler scored 33 points, including a 10-for-10 performance from the line, which marked the ninth time this season that he attempted at least 10 free throws in a game and made all of them. That ties the franchise record for the most such perfect games from the foul line. Michael Jordan was 10-for-10 or better from the charity stripe nine times during the 1987-88 season.
Good night for Lawson and his alma mater
On the same night that North Carolina edged Oregon to advance to the National Championship Game, Ty Lawson scored 21 points and handed out 11 assists in the Kings’ victory over the Timberwolves. It was Lawson’s 26th 20/10 (points/assists) game in the NBA , the fourth-most for a player who came to the league from his alma mater, behind Michael Jordan (71), Phil Ford (33) and Kenny Smith (33).
Booker on target
Trevor Booker made 11 of his 12 field-goal attempts (91.7 percent) and scored 23 points in the Nets’ win over the Magic. That is the third-highest field-goal percentage for a player in an NBA game this season (minimum: 10 FGA). Montrezl Harrell and DeAndre Jordan each had games in which they were 12-for-13 (92.3 percent) from the field, less than a week apart in January.
Another 20-goal season for Bergeron
Patrice Bergeron reached the 20-goal mark for the fourth consecutive season and the eighth time in his 13 seasons with the Bruins when he scored the second of his two goals in Boston’s 5–2 win over the Panthers. Only three players have produced more than eight seasons of 20-plus goals for the Bruins: Johnny Bucyk (16), Rick Middleton (10) and Ray Bourque (9). The others with eight are Phil Esposito, Ken Hodge, Wayne Cashman and Cam Neely.
Matthews stays hot
Auston Matthews extended his goal streak to four games when he tallied the first of his two goals as the Maple Leafs posted a 5–4 win over the Red Wings in Toronto’s final game at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. Matthews is only the second Leafs rookie since 1989–90 to score a goal in each of four consecutive team games within one season, joining Mikhail Grabovski who had a four-game streak in November 2008. Matthews’ goal-scoring streak is the longest by any Toronto player since Phil Kessel scored in four straight games in January 2014. Matthews is only the third rookie ever to produce a multiple-goal game for the Maple Leafs at Joe Louis Arena, which opened in December 1979 and will host its final NHL game next Sunday. The others were Russ Courtnall (with two goals on Nov. 23, 1984) and Vincent Damphousse (two goals on Jan. 15, 1987).
Predators score twice in 10 seconds
Filip Forsberg and Kevin Fiala scored 10 seconds apart late in the second period to break open a goalless game and send the Predators on their way to a 3–0 win over the Wild. They were the fastest two goals for the Preds since March 27, 2014, when Colin Wilson and Calle Jarnkrok scored nine seconds apart during the first period of a 6–1 victory over the Sabres. The goal by Jarnkrok in that game three years ago was the first of his NHL career.
Milestone win for Lehtonen
Kari Lehtonen recorded his 200th career win for the Dallas Stars with a 3–0 victory against the Hurricanes on Saturday. Lehtonen is the ninth active goaltender with 200 or more wins for his current team, but he’s the only goaltender on that list who hasn’t spent his entire NHL career with one team. Lehtonen made his NHL debut with the Atlanta Thrashers and he had 94 wins on his career register when the Thrashers traded him to the Stars in February 2010. The only other active NHL goaltender who won at least 200 games for a team other than the one he started his career with is Roberto Luongo, who posted 252 victories during his eight seasons with the Canucks, after playing for the Islanders and Panthers. Luongo is currently on his second tour of duty with the Panthers.
Price extends road win streak
Carey Price posted his seventh win in his last seven road games with a 2–1 overtime victory for the Canadiens in Tampa on Saturday. Price is the fourth NHL goaltender to win seven or more consecutive decisions on the road this season. The others are Minnesota’s Devan Dubnyk (9), the Bruins’ Tuukka Rask (7) and the Blue Jackets’ Sergei Bobrovsky (7). This is the second-longest single-season road winning streak for Price in his NHL career. He set a Canadiens record with 10 straight road victories two seasons ago (Dec. 2014 to Feb. 2015).
Stolarz is perfect in relief
Anthony Stolarz, who was recalled from the minors by the Flyers to serve as an emergency backup to Michal Neuvirth for Saturday’s game against the Devils (Steve Mason was ill), had to take over in goal when Neuvirth suddenly collapsed to the ice during a stoppage of play early in the first period. The Flyers were leading 1–0 at the time, and Stolarz held the fort perfectly for Philadelphia, stopping all 26 shots he faced over the final 52:23 of the game as the Flyers beat the Devils, 3–0.
Stolarz wasn’t credited with the win (since the deciding goal was scored just before Neuvirth had to leave the game) but he does have the distinction of producing the longest relief appearance without allowing a goal by any goaltender in Flyers history. He bested the previous high of 45:00 by Tommy Soderstrom in a game at Calgary on Feb. 16, 1993. Soderstrom relieved Dominic Roussel to begin the second period with Philadelphia trailing 4–2, and he made 29 saves over the final two regulation periods and five-minute overtime as the game ended in a 4–4 tie.
Wheeler joins 400 club
Blake Wheeler became the fourth player in Thrashers/Jets franchise history to reach the 400-point mark when he scored Winnipeg’s first goal in its 4–2 victory over Ottawa. The other players with at least 400 points for the club which entered the NHL as the Atlanta Thrashers in 1999 and moved to Winnipeg in 2011 are Ilya Kovalchuk (615), Bryan Little (whose two assists in Saturday’s game increased his point total to 426) and Slava Kozlov (416).