Elias Says: March 28, 2018

Firing away, Rockets win 10th in a row

The Rockets, led by 31 points from Eric Gordon, extended their winning streak to 10 games in their 118-86 rout of the Bulls. That is their third winning streak of at least 10 games in the 2017-18 campaign, following a 14-game run from November 16 to December 18 and a 17-game streak from January 28 to March 7. The Rockets are the sixth team in NBA history with three separate winning streaks of 10-or-more games within one season, joining the 1970-71 Bucks, 1980-81 76ers, 1999-00 Lakers, 2006-07 Mavericks, and 2011-12 Spurs (all with three such streaks). It is important to note that one team won at least 30 games in a row; the Lakers won 33 straight in the 1971-72 season.

Dazzling start for Bulls rookie

Rookie Lauri Markkanen was hot early, scoring 14 consecutive points for the Bulls in the first quarter of their loss to the Rockets. Only two other rookies scored 14 straight points for their team this season and both of those instances occurred this month. On March 9, Tyler Dorsey scored 18 in a row for the Hawks at Indiana and Donovan Mitchell had 18 straight points for the Jazz on March 11 against the Pelicans.

New Orleans in rare company as fourth different Pelican earns triple-double

Jrue Holiday scored 21 points, dished out 11 assists, and grabbed 11 rebounds in the Pelicans’ loss to the Blazers. Holiday became the fourth Pelicans player with a triple-double this season, joining DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, and Rajon Rondo. Only one other team in NBA history had at least four different players with a triple-double in a season. That was the 1973-74 Lakers; Elmore Smith led the way with six triple-doubles, and Connie Hawkins, Jim Price, and Jerry West each had one.

Yet another late scoring output from Lillard

Damian Lillard scored 41 points, including 20 in the fourth quarter in their comeback win over the Pelicans. Lillard has scored at least 20 points in a quarter nine times in his NBA career, including Tuesday night’s performance. Five of those nine instances have come in the fourth quarter.

Lillard has had two games this season in which he scored at least 40 points after scoring 21 or fewer points through the first three quarters. His previous instance was on February 24, when he scored 19 in the fourth after netting 21 after three quarters. Only two other players have had a game of this type in the 2017-18 season, but each needed an extra OT period to reach the 40-point mark. On February 8, the Hornets’ Kemba Walker had 17 after three quarters, scored 17 in the fourth, and added six more in the OT period in Portland. And on March 26, the Knicks’ Trey Burke had 20 through three quarters, had 16 in the fourth, and scored six in overtime in Charlotte.

Missing key players, Warriors cannot hold onto lead

The Warriors, with Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson all out of the lineup, led the Pacers by 15 points in the second quarter but ultimately lost, 92-81. Entering Tuesday’s games, Golden State had won each of its last 31 games in which the team held a lead of at least 15 points, the longest active streak in the NBA. The Rockets now own the longest current streak of this type, with a 27-game run.

Impenetrable defense leads Heat to victory

The Heat’s defense had a strong game on Tuesday, limiting the Cavaliers to just 79 points while blocking nine shots. Miami has allowed fewer than 80 points in three games this season, also doing so on November 10 at Utah (74 points) and January 14 versus the Bucks (79 points). Only three other teams have as many games of this type this season; the Jazz and Spurs each have four and the Thunder have three.

Dwyane Wade had four of Miami’s nine blocks. Wade is the fourth player, at age 36 years or older, with at least four blocks in a game this season. The others to do so: Pau Gasol (in October at 37 years old), Kyle Korver (in December at 36 years old), and David West (three such games at 37 years old).

Can’t stop Jokic

Nikola Jokic led the Nuggets with 29 points, 16 rebounds, and eight assists, but Denver fell short in a 114-110 loss to the Raptors. That marked the 10th time this season that Jokic led the Nuggets (including ties for the team lead) in all three categories. Three other players have had 10 or more such games this season: LeBron James (22), Russell Westbrook (21), and Giannis Antetokounmpo (15). Jokic is the first Nuggets player with 10 games of this type in a season in their NBA history.

He does not miss!

Markieff Morris hit all seven of his field goal attempts in the Wizards’ 116-106 win over the Spurs on Tuesday night. Morris had once before sank each of his first seven field goal attempts of a game, doing so for the Suns on December 6, 2013 against the Raptors, when he made his first 11 on the way to finishing 11-for-14. The only other Wizards player this season to make each of his first seven attempts from the floor in a game was Bradley Beal on January 3 versus the Knicks (he made his first seven).

A struggle all night from the free throw line

The Spurs were given plenty of opportunities on the free throw line in their 10-point loss to the Wizards, attempting 33 free throws but making just 18 of them (54.5%). There have been over 300 instances of a team taking at least 30 free throw attempts in a game this season, but only one of those teams had a lower free throw percentage than San Antonio on Tuesday. On January 10, the Hornets made 15 of 30 attempts (50.0%) in a loss to the Mavericks.

Exceptional three-point shooting leads Clippers to a win

The Clippers hit six three-pointers in the fourth quarter to propel them to a 105-98 victory over the Bucks. That marked the third time that Los Angeles sank at least six three-point field goals in the final quarter of a game this season. The Clippers had six on November 22 at Atlanta and seven on December 22 at Houston.

Labissiere leads Kings in points and rebounds in loss

Skal Labissiere led the Kings with 19 points and eight rebounds (teammate Justin Jackson also had eight) and tried to rally Sacramento in the second half with 13 points and six rebounds, but his team fell short, 103-97. That marked the second time that Labissiere led the Kings in points and rebounds in a game (including ties for the lead) since making his NBA debut last season. He led the team outright with 32 points and tied Willie Cauley-Stein with 11 rebounds on March 15, 2017 at Phoenix.

McDavid is making history early in career, hits 100-point mark again

Connor McDavid became the first NHL player to reach the 100-point mark this season when he scored a shorthanded goal and dished out two assists in the first period of the Oilers’ game against the Blue Jackets. McDavid scored 48 points while playing only 45 games in 2015–16, his first season in the NHL, and he led the league with exactly 100 points last season. The 21-year-old McDavid is the seventh player in NHL history to produce at least two 100-point seasons before turning 22 years old. The others are Wayne Gretzky (four seasons), Dale Hawerchuk (three), Mario Lemieux (three), Sidney Crosby (three), Jimmy Carson (two) and Joe Sakic (two).

Hat trick for two teams in one season for Vanek

Thomas Vanek notched his second hat trick of the season and first hat trick for the Blue Jackets with three goals in a 7–3 Columbus win against the Oilers in Edmonton. Vanek’s first hat trick this season was a three-goal game for the Canucks on December 19 versus the Canadiens. Since 1996–97, the only other players to register a hat trick for two NHL teams in one season were Theo Fleury in 1998–99 (Flames, Avs), Teemu Selanne in 2000–01 (Ducks, Sharks), Bill Guerin in 2006–07 (Blues, Sharks) and Olli Jokinen in 2008–09 (Coyotes, Flames).

Staal nets 40th of season, first 40-goal season since 2008-09

Eric Staal scored his 40th goal of the season in the Minnesota Wild’s 2–1 shootout loss to the Predators in Nashville. This is the third 40-goal season of Staal’s 14-year NHL career but first since 2008–09, when he scored 40 goals for the Carolina Hurricanes. The only other player in NHL history who produced 40-goal seasons at least nine seasons apart with no 40-goal season between them is Gordie Howe, from 1956–57 (44 goals) to 1968–69 (also 44 goals). They were Gordie’s final two 40-goal seasons in the NHL.

Tarasenko is terrific

Vladimir Tarasenko’s second goal of the game was the overtime winner for the Blues in their 3–2 victory against the Sharks. Tarasenko, whose goals were his 30th and 31st of the season, has tallied at least 30 goals for the Blues in each of the last four seasons (also 37 in 2014–15, 40 in 2015–16, 39 in 2016–17). Four other players produced streaks of four or more consecutive 30-goal seasons for the Blues: Garry Unger (eight straight), Brett Hull (six), Brian Sutter (five) and Bernie Federko (four).

Biega goes more than three years between first and second goals, but makes them count

Alex Biega’s third period goal proved to be the game winner in the Canucks’ 4-1 triumph over the Ducks on Tuesday. Biega had not scored a goal since he netted the first goal of his NHL career on February 16, 2015 versus the Wild, which was also a game winner. Biega is the first player in NHL history who went at least three years between the first and second goals of his career, with both goals being game winners.

Five different Jets with a hat trick this season

Brandon Tanev, who entered play on Tuesday with four goals in 55 games played this season, recorded his first NHL hat trick by scoring three goals for the Winnipeg Jets in their 5–4 overtime victory against the Bruins. The Jets have had five hat tricks this season, with five different players producing them: Nikolaj Ehlers, Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele, Patrik Laine and Tanev. The 2017–18 Jets are the first NHL team with at least five “hat tricksters” in one season since the Blues in 2014–15 (David Backes, Jori Lehtera, T.J. Oshie, Jaden Schwartz, Vladimir Tarasenko).

NHL veteran Kronwall reaches 400 points

Defenseman Niklas Kronwall recorded the 400th point of his NHL career when he scored the first goal for the Red Wings in their 5–2 win against the Penguins. Kronwall, who has played for no team but Detroit in his 14 seasons in the NHL, is the sixth active defenseman with 400 or more career points, all for one team. The others are Duncan Keith (Blackhawks), Erik Karlsson (Senators), Kris Letang (Penguins), Brent Seabrook (Blackhawks) and Drew Doughty (Kings).

A welcome change for Lehtonen

Kari Lehtonen made 31 saves for the Dallas Stars as they ended their eight-game winless streak with a 3–2 overtime victory against the Flyers. A win over the Flyers is a rare thing for Lehtonen, who entered play on Friday with a 1–11–3 (.167) record against them, third-worst all-time among the 100 goaltenders who have played at least 15 games versus Philadelphia, ahead of Dunc Wilson (1–14–1, .094) and Ron Low (2–16–1, .132).

Palmieri shows off his power, nets two in Devils’ win

Kyle Palmieri tallied two goals, both on power plays, and also recorded an assist for the Devils as they posted a 4–3 win over the Hurricanes in Newark. It was the 14th multiple-goal game for Palmieri in his NHL career but his first game with more than one power play goal. He is the third player to produce a two-PPG game for the Devils this season, following Miles Wood (Nov. 12 at Chicago) and Travis Zajac (March 6 vs. Montreal).

Tough stretch comes to an end

Jaroslav Halak of the Islanders ended the longest winless streak of his NHL career with a 33-save 4–3 victory against the Senators in Ottawa. Halak, who entered play on Tuesday with an 0–8–2 mark since February 19, was only the fifth Islanders goaltender to suffer through a single-season winless streak of at least 10 decisions since 1973–74, the team’s second year in the NHL. The others are Glenn Healy (10 straight decisions without a win in 1989–90), Garth Snow (12 in 2005–06), Joey MacDonald (11 in 2008–09) and Dwayne Roloson (12 in 2010–11).