Elias Says: March 19, 2018

Westbrook proves that some triple-doubles are more special than others

Russell Westbrook capped an extraordinary performance with two key field goals in the final minute of play to lead Oklahoma City to a 132–125 win at Toronto. Westbrook hit a driving layup with 40 seconds remaining to give the Thunder their final lead of the game, and then extended the lead to four points with a 17-foot jumper to finish the contest with 37 points, 14 assists, and 13 rebounds for his fifth consecutive triple-double.

This is the third time that Westbrook has achieved TDs in five straight games. The only other player with three such streaks was Oscar Robertson.

But that’s not all. Sunday’s triple-double came against a team with the best record in the Eastern Conference: The Raptors had a 52–17 record coming into the game. Only four other players recorded a triple-double in a road win over a team with a record at least 35 games above the .500 mark: Oscar Robertson vs. Philadelphia in 1968; John Havlicek and Bill Bridges against the Knicks, 10 days apart in 1970; and Jason Kidd vs. San Antonio in 1996. Westbrook’s was by far the highest-scoring of those five triple-doubles; Havlicek, the runner-up, scored 30 points and did so in an overtime game.

Westbrook’s tour de force came on the 50th anniversary of what might have been the greatest triple-double in NBA history. On March 18, 1968, Wilt Chamberlain scored 53 points with 32 rebounds and 14 assists in the 76ers’ 158–128 rout of the Lakers. It was the only triple-double in NBA history including at least 50 points and 30 rebounds.

Rockets have the look of a champion

The Rockets improved to 56–14 with a 129–120 victory at Minnesota. Of the 22 previous teams that won at least 56 of their first 70 games—that’s an .800 winning percentage—14 won the NBA Finals. But before you jump to any conclusions, the championship rate hasn’t been nearly that high in recent seasons. Only four of the last 10 teams to qualify won the NBA title, compared to 10 of 12 prior to that.

Davis dominates the Celtics again

Anthony Davis scored 34 points in 33 minutes as the Pelicans defeated the Celtics, 108–89. It was the third consecutive game against Boston in which Davis topped the 30-point mark. Davis scored a total of 115 points in 115 minutes, 15 seconds of playing time in those three games, and he is the first player to score more than 30 points in each of three straight games against the Celtics since LeBron James did it in 2010.

Mac maintains goal-per-game pace

Nathan MacKinnon scored two goals in the Avalanche’s 5–1 home-ice win against the Red Wings. MacKinnon has tallied six goals over his last four games, and 13 goals in his last 12 games. Since the Quebec Nordiques moved to Denver in 1995, only two other Avs players averaged better than a goal per game over a 12-game stretch within one season: Joe Sakic in both 1999–2000 (four overlapping 12-game stretches, with a high of 16 goals) and 2000–01 (13 goals), and Milan Hejduk in 2002–03 (13 goals). The only NHL players besides MacKinnon to score at least 13 goals over a 12-game span this season are Patrik Laine (with a 12-game high of 16 goals) and Evgeni Malkin (a high of 15 goals).

Laine: 14 goals in 9 games vs. Dallas

Patrik Laine scored two goals in the Jets’ 4–2 victory over the Stars. Laine has tallied 14 goals in the nine games he has played versus Dallas during his two seasons in the NHL. (That’s at least twice the number of goals he has scored against any other NHL team.) The only other players to score at least 14 goals versus the Stars (Minnesota or Dallas) over a two-season span are Brett Hull (four times from 1989–90 through 1993–94, with a high of 17 goals) and Denis Savard (1984–85 and 1985–86, 14 goals).

Karlsson and Fleury provide the “O” and “D” in Vegas’ win

William Karlsson scored three consecutive goals and Marc-Andre Fleury made 42 saves to lead the Golden Knights to a 4–0 win over the Flames. It was the second NHL game this season in which a player recorded a natural hat trick and a goaltender posted a shutout with 40 or more saves. Jason Zucker scored all three goals in Minnesota’s 3–0 victory at Montreal on Nov. 9, with Devan Dubnyk stopping 41 shots.

The two instances this season match the number of natural hat trick/40-save shutout games in the NHL over the previous 61 seasons combined. Greg Adams scored all of the goals in Kirk McLean’s 45-save win for the Canucks at Montreal on Dec. 4, 1991, and Milan Lucic scored three straight goals for the Bruins as Tuukka Rask made 41 saves in a 4–0 victory over the Panthers on Nov. 18, 2010.

Karlsson discovers his scoring touch

William Karlsson’s hat trick against Calgary on Sunday was his second this season. (He scored three goals against Toronto on Dec. 31.) Karlsson scored only six goals in the 81 games he played for Columbus last season. He’s the second player in NHL history to record multiple hat tricks in one season after scoring fewer than 10 goals while playing at least 80 games during the preceding season. The first was Michael Grabner, who had two hat tricks for the Rangers in 2016–17, after netting just nine goals in 80 games for the Maple Leafs in 2015–16.

DeBrincat’s third hat trick sets a Chicago rookie record

Rookie Alex DeBrincat broke his 13-game goal drought by scoring three goals for the Blackhawks in their 5–4 overtime loss to the Blues. DeBrincat has recorded three hat tricks this season, a record for Blackhawks rookies. Since 1989–90, the only other NHL rookies to notch at least three hat tricks in one season were Teemu Selanne for the original Winnipeg Jets (five) and Eric Lindros for the Flyers (three) in 1992–93, and Patrik Laine for the current Jets (three) last season.

Simmonds scores, Flyers win (as usual)

Wayne Simmonds scored two goals, including the game-winner, in the Flyers’ 6–3 victory over the Capitals. Simmonds has scored 23 goals this season and 20 have come in games his team won (87%). The only other NHL players who have scored more than 20 goals this season with as high a percentage of their goals scored in wins as Simmonds are Nashville’s Kevin Fiala (91%, 21 of 23), Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov (89%, 32 of 36), and Vegas’ Jonathan Marchessault (87%, 20 of 23).

Lee’s multi-goal games put him in fast company

Anders Lee scored two goals in the Islanders’ 4–3 loss to the Hurricanes. It was Lee’s eighth multiple-goal game this season, matching the career high he set last season. The only other players to rack up at least eight multi-goal games for the Islanders in each of two or more consecutive seasons are Mike Bossy (who did that in all 10 seasons of his NHL career, 1977–78 through 1986–87), Pat LaFontaine (five in a row: 1986–87 through 1990–91), Pierre Turgeon (three: 1991–92 through 1993–94) and Zigmund Palffy (two: 1996–97 and 1997–98).

Kucherov scores another pair

Nikita Kucherov scored a pair of goals in the Lightning’s 3–1 win against the Oilers. Kucherov, a Russian native, did not score more than one goal in any of the 52 games he played for the Lightning in 2013–14, his first season in the NHL, but he has produced 18 multiple-goal games over four seasons since then. The only other NHL players born outside North America with at least 18 multi-goal games since 2014–15 are Alex Ovechkin (34), Vladimir Tarasenko (21) and Evgeni Malkin (20).