Elias Says: Apr. 10, 2017

Westbrook puts exclamation point on an amazing season

Russell Westbrook capped a record-breaking day with a buzzer-beating three-pointer to give the Thunder a 106–105 victory over the Nuggets in Denver. Westbrook claimed for himself a record once thought unbreakable by recording his 42nd triple-double of the season, besting Oscar Robertson’s triple-double total in the 1961–62 campaign by one. The Thunder point guard finished his day with 50 points, 16 rebounds, and 10 assists, which happened to be his third 50-point triple-double of the season. No other NBA player compiled as many as three 50-point triple-doubles in their careers, much less a single season.

To put the cherry on top, Westbrook’s game-winning shot on Sunday was the first buzzer-beating game winner of his NBA career, in the regular season or postseason.

What a run it’s been for Robertson

Oscar Robertson's record of 41 triple-doubles was one of the longest-standing and most revered marks in the history of professional basketball. Prior to Robertson's 1961–62 season, the record for triple-doubles in a season by a player had been 26 by… Oscar Robertson, who reached that total as a rookie in the 1960–61 season. Prior to Robertson's arrival in the NBA, the single-season triple-doubles record had been nine, done by both Maurice Stokes in 1957–58 (his final season in the NBA before suffering an incapacitating stroke) and Tom Gola in 1959–60.

Hawks shock Cavaliers with historic fourth-quarter comeback

The Hawks completed the most unlikely comeback of the NBA season on Sunday, defeating the Cavaliers in overtime, 126–125, in Atlanta after overcoming a 26-point deficit to start the fourth quarter. The Hawks are the third team in the shot-clock era – that is, since 1954–55 – to win a game after trailing by 26 or more points at the end of three quarters. The first comeback of that kind in that span also took place in Atlanta – on Nov. 25, 1977, Don Nelson’s Bucks outscored the Hawks 41–11 in the fourth quarter to overcome a 28-point deficit in the final 12 minutes. The other such comeback took place on Dec. 6, 2002, when the Lakers climbed out of a 27-point hole in the fourth quarter to stun the Mavericks, 105–103. Kobe Bryant hit a go-ahead jumper with 8.4 seconds remaining to clinch the victory for the Lakers. By the way – the Mavericks coach on that day? None other than Don Nelson.

We were all witnesses to LeBron’s worst quarter ever

LeBron James posted some huge numbers on Sunday night, scoring 32 points while also producing a team-high 16 rebounds and 10 assists. The bad news was that one of the biggest numbers for James on Sunday night had a minus sign in front of it. James was on the court for every second of the Hawks’ fourth-quarter comeback, meaning his plus/minus rating for the period was a ghastly minus-26. That was James’s worst plus/minus rating for any quarter in his NBA career. His previous worst for a quarter was minus-25, which he compiled as a member of the Heat in the first quarter on Jan. 15, 2014 at Washington.

Harden also a part of Sunday’s triple-double parade

James Harden produced his 21st triple-double of the season in the Rockets’ road victory over the Kings on Sunday. Harden scored 35 points while also totaling 11 rebounds and 15 assists, making him one of three players on Sunday to compile more than 30 points in a triple-double along with Russell Westbrook (50 points) and LeBron James (32 points). The only other day in NBA history in which as many as three players produced a triple-double while scoring at least 30 points was Feb. 13, 1963. The three players to do so on that day were Wilt Chamberlain (51 points), Elgin Baylor (50 points), and Oscar Robertson (34 points).

Hollywood ending for Russell and Lakers

D’Angelo Russell nailed a three-pointer at the buzzer to give the Lakers a one-point victory over the Timberwolves at Staples Center. Russell was the second player to hit a go-ahead shot at the final buzzer on Sunday, joining Russell Westbrook who hit a game-winning three for the Thunder at Denver. The only other day this season in which multiple players hit game-winning shots with zeros on the clock was March 5, when the Suns’ Tyler Ulis nailed a tiebreaking three at the horn to defeat the Celtics and Rudy Gobert’s tip-in at the buzzer clinched a win for the Jazz at Sacramento.

2K for Towns

Karl-Anthony Towns scored 40 points against the Lakers on Sunday, making him the seventh NBA player to reach 2000 points in the 2016–17 season (DeMar DeRozan became the sixth to do so earlier in the day). The last season in which as many as seven players scored at least 2000 points was 2005–06 when nine players reached that mark (Kobe Bryant led the way with 2832).

Only one player in NBA history was younger than Towns (whose age was 21 years, 145 days as of Sunday) at the time of his 2000th point of a season. LeBron James was 20 years, 102 days on April 11, 2005 when he crossed the 2000-point mark for the first time, and he was 21 years, 74 days when he hit the 2000-point plateau the following season on March 14, 2006.

Another 30-point game (and win) for DeRozan

DeMar DeRozan poured in 35 points at Madison Square Garden to lead the Raptors to a 110–97 victory over the Knicks. Sunday marked the 80th time that DeRozan scored 30 or more points in a game for the Raptors, with 32 of those games coming this season. Toronto is 25–7 (.781) in DeRozan’s 30-point games this season, including 10–0 since the All-Star break. No other player this season has compiled a streak of 10 or more consecutive wins in games in which that player totaled at least 30 points. Stephen Curry and Isaiah Thomas produced nine-game win streaks of that kind earlier this season.

Warren can’t miss in Phoenix

TJ Warren had a perfect night for the Suns, scoring 21 points without missing a shot and helping Phoenix defeat the Mavericks, 124–111. Warren went 8-for-8 from the field including a pair of three-pointers and made all three of his attempts from the free-throw line. The only other player in Suns history to score that many points in a game without missing a field-goal attempt or free-throw attempt was Xavier McDaniel. On Jan. 15 1991, the “X-Man” went 12-for-12 from the floor to rack up 24 points in the Suns’ 30-point victory over the Bullets.

The most points scored by a player in a game with perfect shooting percentages this season was 24, done by 40-year-old Vince Carter on March 13 for the Grizzlies against the Bucks. Carter shot 8-for-8 from the field with six threes and made a pair of foul shots.

Lots of low numbers in Memphis

Mike Conley was the game’s leading scorer in the Grizzlies’ matchup with the Pistons on Sunday despite a modest total of 15 points. There have been three games this season in which no player on either side scored as many as 16 points, and Memphis was involved in all three. On November 18 Harrison Barnes was the leading scorer of the game with 15 points in the Mavericks’ 80–64 loss to the Grizzlies, and on February 6 both Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph reached 15 points to lead all players as Memphis defeated the Spurs, 89–74.

Angels soar after huge rally in ninth

The Angels scored seven runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to cap a miraculous comeback victory over the Mariners on Sunday. The Angels’ “seven from heaven” represented the most runs they scored in the final inning of a walkoff win since Aug. 29, 1986, a 13–12 comeback win over the Tigers. California scored eight runs in the ninth inning and Dick Schofield provided the final blow with a game-ending grand slam.

Pujols provides the spark for Angels’ rally

With the Angels down 9–3 in the bottom of the ninth, Albert Pujols led off the inning with a home run to give the crowd and his teammates some hope. Later in the inning, with the Angels down to their final out, Pujols drove in two runs with a single to tie the game. Pujols is the second player in the last 30 years to lead off a ninth inning with a home run and, later in that inning, produce a game tying-or-winning RBI. The other to do so in that span was Manny Alexander, who achieved that feat for the Orioles on July 2, 1995 in Toronto. Alexander led off the top of the ninth inning with a home run that cut Baltimore’s deficit to four runs, and he hit a two-out two-run single later in the frame which brought in the tying and go-ahead runs for the O’s.

Astros walk off with walkoff

Evan Gattis drew a walk with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 12th inning to earn a walkoff victory for the Astros over the Royals. The last time before Sunday that a Houston player walked with the bases loaded to clinch a walkoff win was on July 17, 1999, when Derek Bell did so for the Astros in the 10th inning against the Tigers.

Springer makes history in Houston

George Springer blasted another leadoff homer to put the Astros on the scoreboard early against the Royals. That was the third leadoff homer of the season for Springer, who also homered to start the first inning on April 3 and April 6, both times against the Mariners. Prior to Springer, no player in major-league history hit as many as three leadoff homers in his team’s first seven games of the season. Entering this year, the only player to hit three leadoff homers within his team’s first 10 games of a season was Brian Downing, who led off the top of the first inning with a longball three times within the first nine games of the season for the 1987 Angels.

Supernatural start of season for Santana

Ervin Santana has been lights out for the Twins to start the season. Santana allowed two hits over six scoreless innings in his win over the White Sox on Sunday, six days after allowing two hits and one run over seven innings in his Opening Day win over the Royals. Santana is the first pitcher in Twins/Senators history to win his first two starts of the season while allowing no more than two hits in either game. The last pitcher on any team to start his season in such a way was Jake Odorizzi, who allowed two hits in each of his first two starts – both wins – for the 2015 Rays. Odorizzi had just one game of that kind in his final 26 starts for Tampa Bay that year.

Huge day for Marte

Starling Marte capped a four-hit day with a two-run walkoff home run in the bottom of the 10th inning to propel the Pirates to victory over the Braves. Sunday’s game marked the second time that Marte produced at least four hits in a game including a game-ending homer; he also tallied four hits including a walkoff bomb for Pittsburgh on May 2, 2014 versus the Blue Jays. The only other active player with multiple games of that kind is Adrian Gonzalez, who stroked four hits with a walkoff home run in two games for the Padres, versus the Reds in 2008 and against the Mets in 2010.

Yankees turn the tables on Orioles with three-run comeback

The Yankees overcame a three-run deficit at Camden Yards to deliver the Orioles their first loss of the season. The Bronx Bombers had blown a four-run advantage on Friday and a three-run lead on Saturday before their comeback win on Sunday. This was just the third series of at least three games in Yankees history in which the winning team overcame a deficit of at least three runs in each matchup. New York had a pair of three-game series of that kind versus the Athletics – one in May 1949 (Philadelphia swept that series) and the other in May 1979 (the Yanks won two of three against Oakland).

Baltimore loses late lead

The Orioles started the eighth inning with the lead before serving up a game-tying homer to Aaron Judge. Baltimore’s Darren O’Day then allowed four runs in the ninth inning to seal the O’s fate. The Orioles lost two games all of last season in which they were ahead at any point in the eighth inning or later, which was the fewest such losses in the majors. Entering Sunday, Baltimore had won its last 70 games in which it held a lead in the eighth inning or later, by far the longest active winning streak of that kind in the majors. With the O’s streak over, the Cubs now own the longest current winning streak in games when leading in the eighth inning or later; Chicago’s streak stands at 30 games after its win on Sunday.

Arrieta’s in good company

Jake Arrieta made his 100th start with the Cubs on Sunday, pitching seven innings to earn the win for Chicago over the Brewers at Miller Park. Arrieta compiled an earned-run average of 2.52 in his 100 starts with the Cubbies. Two other pitchers in the last 20 years compiled an ERA as low as Arrieta’s through 100 starts with a team. Pedro Martinez’s earned-run average with the Red Sox stood at 2.19 at the time of his 100th start for Boston on May 18, 2001, and Randy Johnson possessed a 2.50 ERA with the Diamondbacks at the time of his 100th start with Arizona on Sept. 7, 2001. (Johnson’s ERA as a Diamondbacks starter was 2.53 in those 100 starts, which is slightly higher than Arrieta’s mark with the Cubs, but a scoreless seven-inning relief outing by Johnson within that first 100-start span pushed his overall ERA during that time to 2.50.)

Young guns swinging big sticks for Rangers

Joey Gallo drove in five of the Rangers’ eight runs in their victory over the A’s on Sunday. Gallo, who is 23 years old, and his 21-year-old teammate Nomar Mazara, who totaled six RBIs on Friday against Oakland, are the first pair of Rangers teammates age 23 or younger to each produce a five-RBI game in the same series. The last duo on any team with such a series at that age were Andre Dawson and Ellis Valentine, who were both 22 years old as of July 4, 1977. On that day, Dawson and Valentine both drove in five runs in the opener of a doubleheader for the Expos against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Thunder god strikes Marlins

Noah Syndergaard brought the hammer down on the Marlins, striking out nine batters over seven innings to lead the Mets to victory over Miami on Sunday Night Baseball at Citi Field. Syndergaard has struck out 16 opposing hitters in his first two starts of the season without issuing a base on balls. No other pitcher in Mets history started a season by striking out more than 15 opposing hitters before surrendering a walk. (This does not include midseason acquisitions such as Fernando Salas, who had 19 strikeouts and no walks with the Mets last season but pitched for two other major-league teams earlier that year.) The longest streak of strikeouts before a walk by any pitcher to begin the 2016 season was 22 by Cubs reliever Hector Rondon.

Clutch hit by Leon

After Brock Holt walked with the bases loaded to force in the tying run in the top of the eighth inning at Comerica Park, Sandy Leon hit the next pitch from Kyle Ryan into right-center field to drive in two runs and give the Red Sox a lead they would not relinquish over the Tigers. Boston had the fewest one-pitch plate appearances in the majors last season with 532, though their .370 batting average in that situation was third-best in baseball.

Cueto still the only winner on Giants’ staff

Johnny Cueto struck out seven over seven innings at San Diego to earn his second win of the season for the Giants. Cueto is the fourth Giants pitcher since the franchise relocated to San Francisco in 1958 to earn each of San Francisco’s first two wins of a season. The others to do so in that span were Vida Blue (1980), Fred Breining (1983), and Matt Morris (2007).

Zimmerman pitches in with pinch-hit bomb

With two outs in the top of the ninth inning, Ryan Zimmerman hit a pinch-hit three-run homer off Phillies closer Jeanmar Gomez to tie the score. Zimmerman is now 4-for-4 with two home runs and six RBIs as a pinch hitter in his career against the Phillies. Against every other team, Zimmerman is 5-for-22 (.227) in a pinch-hitting role with no homers and five RBIs. The only other active players with at least four pinch-hit at-bats against a team and a batting average of 1.000 in that role are Kurt Suzuki, who is 5-for-5 as a pinch hitter against the White Sox, and Odubel Herrera, who is 4-for-4 in pinch-hit at-bats versus the Marlins.

Rare shutout for Reds in St. Louis

The Reds blanked the Cardinals, 8–0, in St. Louis on Sunday, marking Cincinnati’s second-biggest road shutout over St. Louis in the last 100 years. On Aug. 28, 2013, Homer Bailey and the Reds defeated Adam Wainwright and the Cardinals, 10–0, at Busch Stadium. Cincinnati’s largest all-time margin of victory in a road shutout at St. Louis was 12 runs, which occurred in the first game of a doubleheader on July 4, 1906.

Odorizzi settles down after rough start

Jake Odorizzi allowed two runs in the first inning but then held the Blue Jays hitless over the next five innings, allowing the Rays time to rally for a 7–2 victory over Toronto. No Rays pitcher last season won a start in which he trailed by multiple runs at the end of the first inning. The last starting pitcher to achieve that feat for Tampa Bay was Erasmo Ramirez, who trailed 2–0 after the first inning at Fenway Park but came away with the win after a four-run rally by Tampa Bay spanning the sixth and seventh innings.

McDavid wins scoring title

Connor McDavid racked up his 99th and 100th points of the season with a pair of assists in the Oilers’ 5–2 victory over the Canucks and won the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL scoring leader by an 11-point margin over the joint runners-up, Sidney Crosby and Patrick Kane, who each tallied 89 points. McDavid, at age 20 years, 86 days, is the third-youngest player ever to win the Art Ross Trophy, behind Sidney Crosby (age 19 in 2006–07) and Wayne Gretzky in 1980 –81 (age 20 years, 69 days). Only five players in NHL history have reached the 100-point mark in a season at a younger age than McDavid: Crosby (twice, age 18 and 19), Gretzky (twice, age 19 and 20), Dale Hawerchuk (age 18), Mario Lemieux (age 19) and Jimmy Carson (age 19).

Zetterberg and the Red Wings say goodbye to the Joe

Henrik Zetterberg, playing in the 1000th regular-season game of his NHL career, tallied one goal and one assist as the Red Wings posted a 4–1 win over the Devils in the final NHL game ever to be played at Joe Louis Arena. Zetterberg, who has spent his entire career with the Red Wings, played in 502 regular-season games at “the Joe,” fifth-most of any player, behind Nicklas Lidstrom (789), Steve Yzerman (763), Kris Draper (560) and Tomas Holmstrom (519). Zetterberg finished as the third-leading goal-scorer at Joe Louis Arena (193, behind Yzerman at 330 and Sergei Fedorov at 229), and he ranked fourth in both assists (309; Yzerman 567, Lidstrom 487, Pavel Datsyuk 325) and points (502; Yzerman 897, Lidstrom 635, Fedorov 533).

Reimer ends season on high note

Panthers goaltender James Reimer ended the season by posting back-to-back shutouts, blanking the Sabres 3–0 on Saturday and beating the Capitals in Washington by a 2–0 score on Sunday. Reimer is the first goaltender in Florida franchise history to record shutouts in games played on consecutive days, and he’s the first Panthers netminder with two straight shutouts over any time-frame since Tomas Vokoun notched clean sheets on Feb. 14 and 16, 2010. Reimer is the first goaltender on any NHL team to register shutouts on consecutive days since Ondrej Pavelec performed that feat for Winnipeg on April 6–7, 2015.

Two more Islanders reach 20 goals

Brock Nelson and Jason Chimera each scored their 20th goal of the season for the Islanders as they ended the 2016–17 schedule on a six-game winning streak with a 4–2 victory against Ottawa. Nelson and Chimera were the fourth and fifth players to reach the 20-goal plateau for the Isles this season. Anders Lee scored a team-high 34 goals (including one on Sunday), John Tavares notched 28 goals, and Andrew Ladd hit the net 23 times (also including one on Sunday). Five 20-goal scorers matches the Islanders’ high for any of the last 22 NHL seasons. They also had five players score 20 goals or more in 1996–97, 2006–07 and 2010–11. Tavares is the only player in this year’s quintet who was also among the five 20-goal scorers for the Islanders in 2010–11.

Blue Jackets snap skid before playoffs

Cam Atkinson scored the winning goal for the Blue Jackets as they stopped their five-game losing streak with a 3–2 season-ending victory over the Maple Leafs in Toronto. Atkinson’s goal was the 20th that he scored in road games this season. The only other NHL players to score at least 20 road goals this season were Auston Matthews (24), Sidney Crosby (22) and Brad Marchand (22). Atkinson is the first Columbus player to score 20 or more road goals in one season since Rick Nash tied the team record with 23 in 2008–09 (a mark set by Geoff Sanderson in 2002–03).

Big finish for Point

Rookie Brayden Point scored two goals for the Lightning in their season-ending 4–2 win over the Sabres. Point scored only nine goals in his first 53 games this season but he tallied nine goals in 15 games after that, tying Nikita Kucherov for the Tampa Bay team high over that stretch (March 13 through April 9). Point’s nine goals over the final four weeks of the NHL season tied Auston Matthews for the high among rookies.

Even-keeled Tarasenko scores for St. Louis

Vladimir Sobotka and Vladimir Tarasenko scored even-strength goals 79 seconds apart early in the third period which turned a 2–1 deficit for the Blues into a 3–2 lead and eventual win by the same score over the Avalanche. Tarasenko led St. Louis with 39 goals this season and he produced 30 of those goals at even strength. Since 1994–95, the only other player to score 30 or more even-strength goals for the Blues in one season was Brad Boyes with 32 in 2007–08.

McGinn helps Hurricanes end season on high note

Brock McGinn scored the deciding goal in the shootout which gave the Hurricanes a 4–3 win over the Flyers in Philadelphia, after scoring two goals for Carolina during regulation time. The only other time a Hurricanes player recorded a multiple-goal game in which he also scored the winning goal in a shootout was when Eric Staal did so, also in Philadelphia, on April 13, 2014. McGinn is the only player on any NHL team to do that this season. The only player with a game of that kind last season was Nashville’s James Neal (Oct. 17, 2015 at Ottawa).