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No LeBron, no problem for Irving
With LeBron James out of action due to a wrist injury, Kyrie Irving led the Cavaliers with a career-high 55 points in their 99-94 victory over the Blazers. Irving is the second player in franchise history to score at least 55 points in a game, joining LeBron James, who has two such games for Cleveland. Irving's 11 three-pointers are a franchise-high and are tied with Klay Thompson (Jan. 23) for the most threes in a game this season.
Irving also joined James on a short list of players to record at least 55 points when their teams score fewer than 100 points. On January 20, 1952, George Mikan scored 61 of the Minneapolis Lakers' 91 points in a double-overtime victory over the Rochester Royals. Michael Jordan was the next to accomplish that feat, netting 56 points for the Bulls in Chicago's 93-91 victory over the 76ers on March 24, 1987. James is the only "loser" on the four-man list - Cleveland lost 105-98 in Toronto on March 20, 2005, despite 56 points by James.
Irving recorded 28 points in the first two quarters - more than the rest of his teammates combined (26 points) - while also recording a team-high four assists over that span. In the last four seasons, only one other NBA player scored more than half of his team's points in the first two quarters of a game while distributing at least four assists by halftime. Was it LeBron or Durant, Stephen Curry or Chris Paul? You might need a few (dozen) more guesses before coming up with Isaiah Thomas - on January 19, 2014 at Oklahoma City, the Kings point guard scored 27 of Sacramento's 52 points in the first half while also contributing four assists.
Tough luck for Aldridge
Irving's night overshadowed a huge night by LaMarcus Aldridge, who recorded 38 points and 11 rebounds in a losing effort. Aldridge now has 11 games with at least 35 points and 10 rebounds for the Blazers. The only player in franchise history with more games of that kind is Clyde Drexler, who had 19 such games with Portland.
Still a happy new year for Hawks
The Hawks improved to 15-0 in 2015 after defeating the Nets, 113-102, in Atlanta. This month marked the first time in the 66-year history of the franchise that the Hawks won at least 15 games in a calendar month. Atlanta had reached 14 victories in a month twice before, doing so in January 1997 and December 2014. The Hawks also became the third team in NBA history to start the calendar year with at least 15 consecutive wins - the Bulls won their first 16 games in 1996, and the Suns went 15-0 to begin 2007.
Clippers' streaks continue
Chris Paul scored 21 points and distributed six assists, helping the Clippers extend their winning streak to six games by defeating the Jazz, 94-89, in Salt Lake City. The victory also preserved another winning streak for Los Angeles - the Clippers have now won each of their last 13 games against Utah dating back to 2012. That is the longest winning streak against a single opponent in franchise history, and it's the second-longest current winning streak for any NBA team versus a particular opponent. The Heat currently own the longest active winning streak against a team - Miami has won 16 straight games against the Raptors.
Huge start by 76ers in win over Pistons
The 76ers made quick work of the Pistons on Wednesday, sprinting to a 20-point advantage in the first quarter after scoring 18 unanswered points in a span of three minutes. The only other time in the last four seasons that Philadelphia established a lead of at least 20 points in the first quarter of a game was in the 2013-14 season opener - the 76ers stunned the defending champion Heat by taking a 22-point lead in the opening quarter. Philadelphia lost its lead a few minutes into the third quarter but overcame a nine-point deficit in the fourth to cap the upset victory over Miami.
The 76ers connected on eight consecutive field-goal attempts in their first-quarter scoring run against the Pistons, which tied their longest streak of successful field-goal attempts this season. Philadelphia also made eight straight shots from the floor on January 3 in the second quarter against the Clippers.
Williams leads Raptors
Lou Williams scored 27 points off the bench to lead the Raptors to a 119-102 victory over the Kings. Wednesday marked the 10th time this season that Williams led Toronto (or tied for the team-lead) in points, and the Raptors are 9-1 in those contests. More than 50 players have led their teams in scoring at least 10 times this season; Williams is the only player of that group whose team has won at least 90 percent of his team-leading scoring performances. Stephen Curry is next on the list - the Warriors are 16-2 (.889) this season when Curry leads Golden State in points.
Happy birthday Coach Pop
It was a happy 66th birthday for Gregg Popovich as the Spurs defeated the Hornets, 95-86. Popovich joined Jerry Sloan as the only head coaches in NBA history to coach a game on his birthday at age 66 or older - the Jazz won for Sloan on both his 66th birthday in 2008 and his 67th birthday in 2009. This year marked the fourth time that Popovich has earned a win as a head coach on his birthday, having also done so in 1998, 2006, and 2007. The only other active coach with more than two wins on his birthday is the Timberwolves' Flip Saunders, who has coached his teams to victory six times on his birthday (Feb. 23).
Westbrook not enough for Durant-less Thunder
Russell Westbrook tied a season-high with 40 points but that was not enough for the Thunder, who lost 100-92 to the Knicks at Madison Square Garden. Westbrook made 13 of 30 field-goal attempts on Wednesday, good for 43 percent. That's the lowest field-goal percentage for any player in a 40-point game this season; Westbrook's former teammate James Harden had the previous low this season (44 points, 44 percent from the field on Dec. 11). Last season, only two players scored at least 40 points in a game while shooting no higher than 43 percent from the floor. Kevin Durant had three games of that kind last season, and Harden had one such game.
Double streak-snapper in New Orleans
The Nuggets held on late to defeat the Pelicans, 93-85, in New Orleans. The victory halted Denver's seven-game losing streak as well as the Pelicans' four-game winning streak. The last time before Wednesday that the Nuggets snapped a losing streak of four-or-more games by defeating an opponent who had an active streak of four-or-more consecutive wins was on March 2, 1997 - Denver snapped a six-game skid by defeating the Clippers in overtime, which ended L.A.'s four-game winning streak.
Rockets win third straight
Josh Smith came off the bench to score a team-high 18 points, leading the Rockets to a 99-94 victory over the Mavericks. Prior to Wednesday's win, the last time that Houston defeated Dallas with no Rockets players scoring 20-or-more points was on December 6, 1997 - Charles Barkley led the Rockets with 19 points in their 108-106 road victory versus the Mavericks.
Timberwolves spread scoring, snap skid
The Timberwolves defeated the Celtics, 110-98, to snap their five-game losing streak. Both teams exhibited a balanced scoring effort on Wednesday - seven different players on both Minnesota and Boston scored at least 10 points. Wednesday's contest marked the first time this season that opposing teams each had at least seven players with double-digit point totals. There were only two games of that kind last season - the Clippers and Rockets each had seven 10-point scorers on November 4, 2013, and the Celtics and Magic had seven and seven on November 11, 2013.
Another record for Ovechkin
Alex Ovechkin tied Peter Bondra's record for most career multiple-goal games for the Capitals (93) when he scored the first two goals in Washington's 4-0 win against Pittsburgh. Bondra played 14 seasons for the Capitals (1990-91 to 2003-04), while Ovechkin is in his 10th season. Since 2005-06, Ovechkin's first season in the league, the only players who are within 40 of his multi-goal-game total are Jarome Iginla (66), Sidney Crosby (59) and Rick Nash (53).
Holtby blanks Penguins again
Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby recorded his second straight shutout against the Penguins with a 4-0 victory in Washington on Wednesday. Holtby, who won 3-0 in Pittsburgh on December 27, is only the fifth goaltender since 1977 to register consecutive shutouts versus the Penguins. The others are Roberto Luongo (Jan. 18 and Feb. 6, 2003), Tomas Vokoun (Nov. 23, 2001 and Feb. 27, 2003), Martin Brodeur (Dec. 21 and 30, 2009), and Michal Neuvirth (Feb. 6 and 21, 2011), who was playing for the Capitals at the time.
Late goal by Larsson
Adam Larsson scored the tying goal for New Jersey with 2:50 remaining to play in the third period and the Devils went on to record a 2-1 shootout win against the Maple Leafs. It was only the third time in the last 10 seasons that a Devils defenseman recorded a score-tying goal in the last five minutes of regulation time. The only other New Jersey backliners to do that since 2005-06 are Brad Lukowich (Dec. 2, 2006 at Philadelphia) and Marek Zidlicky (Oct. 26, 2013 at Boston).