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Elias Says ...

3/15/2007 - NHL

A daily glance inside the numbers from the world of sports:

NBA
• The Suns' 129-127 double-overtime victory at Dallas lived up to the pregame hype. It was the first game in NBA history between teams that had both won as many as 42 of their last 50 games in that season. Dallas had won 44 of its previous 50 games; Phoenix won 42 of its previous 50.

Steve Nash scored the Suns' last 10 points of the fourth quarter, all in the final minute of regulation, to send the game into overtime. Two other NBA players scored their team's final 10 points of the fourth period to send a game into overtime this season (Ron Artest and Pau Gasol).

Erick Dampier collected 11 rebounds for the Mavs, all off the offensive glass. Since the NBA started tracking the category in 1973-74, only two other players had at least 11 offensive rebounds in a game in which they gathered none on the defensive end: Bill Laimbeer (11 for the Pistons on Jan 9, 1993) and Popeye Jones (12 for the Mavericks on March 10, 1994).

• Dallas had won its previous 23 games at American Airlines Center, the longest home winning streak for any NBA team within the confines of a single season since the Pacers won 25 in a row at Conseco Fieldhouse in 1999-2000.

• The Celtics snapped Atlanta's four-game winning streak with a 109-88 victory in Boston. The Hawks have played 622 games since the end of their last five-game winning streak in December 1999. That's the longest streak without winning five in a row for any NBA team since the Clippers went more than 700 games between such streaks from 1995-2004. There have been 357 winning streaks of five or more games by NBA teams since the last one registered by the Hawks.

LeBron James scored 29 points in the Cavaliers' 118-86 rout of the Grizzlies. James was 11-for-17 from the floor, but he handed out only four assists, ending his streak of eight games with at least 10 field goals and five assists, two games shy of the longest such streak of his career (10 in a row last season). Over the past 30 years, only two other NBA players had at least 10 field goals and five assists in each of eight consecutive games: Michael Jordan, who had three such streaks of at least eight games, and Larry Bird, who had one eight-game streak.

T.J. Ford has a curious statistical line in the Raptors' 104-94 triumph over the Knicks: Ford matched his career-high with 18 assists, as well as making all eight of his foul shots and scoring 18 points. Since 1996-97, only one other player dished out as many as 18 assists in a game in which he was 8-for-8 or better from the free-throw line. Golden State's Baron Davis did it earlier this season (18 assists, 10-for-10 from the line, Nov. 16, 2006).

It was the second game this season in which for Ford had at least 18 points to go along with 18 assists. Over the span mentioned earlier (since 1996-97), only two other NBA players have had two such games in the same season: Steve Nash (a pair of in each of the past two seasons) and Jamal Tinsley (in 2001-02).

• The Bobcats defeated the Kings 111-108 in a battle of division cellar-dwellers. It was Charlotte's second win of the season against the other teams that currently occupy last place in their division, having previously posted a victory against the Celtics (Nov. 22). Every other NBA team has at least five wins against last-place opponents.

Sean May led the Bobcats with 20 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, the first of his career. May's 57 previous NBA games without a 3-point field goal was the longest start-of-career streak to end with a "multiple-trey" game since Dec. 10, 2003, when Seattle's Ansu Sesay made two 3-pointers after having none through his first 72 games in the league.

Dwight Howard scored 31 points and grabbed 15 rebounds to lead the Magic to a 101-90 win against the Jazz. It was an old-fashioned battle of big men, as Mehmet Okur had 21 points and 12 rebounds for Orlando. There's been only one other NBA game this season in which the starting centers each had as many as 20 points and at least 12 rebounds. Andris Biedrins and Pau Gasol both reached those levels in the Warriors' overtime win against Memphis on Feb. 21.

Kirk Hinrich's field goal with less than 30 seconds remaining capped a fourth-quarter comeback and gave the Bulls an 88-87 win over the 76ers. It was only the second time in franchise history that the Bulls recorded a one-point victory at Philadelphia. The other was Nov. 2, 1977, at the Spectrum, when Artis Gilmore scored a game-high 30 points in a 103-102 triumph.

• The Pacers suffered their 11th straight defeat, dropping a 112-96 decision to the Wizards. Indiana was 29-24 prior to the first of those 11 losses. Over the last ten years, only one other NBA team had a double-digit losing streak from a starting point at least five games over the .500 mark. The 2001-02 Raptors were 29-21 before embarking on a 13-game losing streak.

• The Rockets relinquished a 17-point lead but recovered to defeat the Clippers 109-105. Houston scored the first 12 points of the game to equal its largest shutout lead in four seasons under Jeff Van Gundy. The Rockets' only other 12-0 lead during Van Gundy's tenure with the club occurred earlier this season, in a 107-76 rout of the Mavericks (Nov. 4).

Chris Kaman had 16 points, nine rebounds and four blocked shots in the Clippers' loss, topping Yao Ming in each of those categories (14 points, six rebounds and no blocks). Yao had started only two other games during his NBA career in which he played at least 30 minutes and was bested by the opposing starting center in each of those three categories. Oddly, the Rockets also won both of those games (vs. Shaquille O'Neal's Lakers on Christmas Day in 2003 and against Denver's Marcus Camby, April 9, 2004).

• The Pistons extended their winning streak to five games with an 87-75 victory at Portland. Detroit previously defeated the Nuggets, Clippers, and Sonics on its current trip, winning four in a row, all in the Mountain or Pacific time Zzones, for the first time since five straight victories in March 1992. Next up for the Pistons is a stop at Phoenix on Friday.

• Terry Stotts was fired by the Bucks on Wednesday after guiding the team to a 23-41 mark this season. Over the past ten seasons (since 1997-98), only three other NBA teams replaced their head coach more than 60 games into a season. The three previous changes were all in 2004-05, and each, like Stotts's firing, occurred between the clubs' 64th and 65th games of the season: Cleveland (Paul Silas was replaced by Brendan Malone), Orlando (fired Johnny Davis, hired Chris Jent) and Dallas (Don Nelson out, Avery Johnson in).

NHL
• The Penguins gave regular goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury a rest Wednesday night, and backup Jocelyn Thibault filled in admirably with a 3-0 shutout of the Devils in New Jersey. It was only the fourth win for Thibault in 21 regular-season and three playoff games against the Devils (4-10-4 in regular season, 0-3 in playoffs), and it was his first win ever at the Meadowlands (1-6-2 in 11 regular-season games, 0-2 in two playoff games).

• Rookie forward Jiri Hudler scored two goals for the Red Wings in their 4-2 win over the Predators in Detroit. It was Hudler's third consecutive game with at least one goal and two points. He had a goal and an assist against Boston on Sunday and the same Tuesday in the first half of the Red Wings' home-and-home set against Nashville. Prior to Sunday, Hudler had never scored more than one point in any of his 78 career games in the NHL.