Stats & Info: Blake Griffin

Keys to victory: Thunder 112, Clippers 101

May, 8, 2014
May 8
1:17
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This was one of those days in which the combination of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook was just too much for their opponents to handle.

The Oklahoma City Thunder evened their semifinal with the Los Angeles Clippers with a convincing win in Game 2.

The Thunder snapped their five-game conference semifinal losing streak.

Westbrook takes it upon himself
Westbrook scored 21 of his 31 points when he did not pass the ball during the possession, including 17 of his 19 first-half points.

In the playoffs, he has been more effective when he has not deferred to his teammates, shooting 49 percent on possessions in which he doesn’t pass the ball and 37 percent on possessions in which he did pass it.

Westbrook had his third triple-double of the postseason. No one else in the NBA has any.

Westbrook is the fifth player in last 25 seasons with at least three triple-doubles in a single postseason (Rajon Rondo (twice), Jason Kidd, LeBron James and Magic Johnson)

Durant handles Barnes
Kevin Durant had his 28th career postseason game scoring at least 30 points, his sixth this postseason (the most in the NBA).

Durant was 8 for 11 for 21 points against Matt Barnes, after being held to 4 of 9 and 11 points by Barnes in Game 1.

Ibaka thwarts Griffin
Serge Ibaka continued his defensive excellence against Blake Griffin, who scored 7 points on 3-of-11 shooting when guarded by Ibaka in Game 2. Ibaka has held Griffin to 6 of 21 shooting and one field goal inside 10 feet this series. Griffin led the league with 6.6 such makes per game during the regular season.

Griffin is 6 for 8 against other defenders in this series.

Looking ahead
There have been 203 best-of-7 series that have been tied 1-1. The Game 3 winner goes on to win the series 76 percent of the time (154-49).

Similar styles set to clash in L.A.

February, 26, 2014
Feb 26
2:19
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AP Photo/Mark J. TerrillThe Clippers and Rockets like to get out and run, as they both rank in the top five in transition scoring.
The Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers meet for a third time this season Wednesday night (ESPN, 10:30 p.m. ET), and chances are the match-up will be fun to watch.

Off to the races
There will be no shortage of high-flying dunks and fast breaks, as the Clippers and Rockets rank one and two in the league in dunks, respectively. They also play at almost the same exact pace and both rank in the top five in the league in transition scoring.

James Harden scored 20 of his 43 points in transition Tuesday night against the Kings, adding to his league-leading average of 7.8 points per game in transition.

The Clippers have been able to keep Harden in check this season, though. In the first two matchups against the Clippers this season, Harden scored 11 points on 4-of-8 shooting in transition.

Blake Griffin leads the Clippers, and all NBA power forwards/centers in transition points and assists this season.

Streaking
The Rockets enter Wednesday night’s game as one of the hottest teams in the NBA.

Houston is an NBA-best 18-5 since January 1. Fresh off a 26-point win against the Sacramento Kings, the Rockets have won 10 of its last 11 overall.

The Rockets entered January sitting in sixth place in the Western Conference. But Houston now sits in third place after a couple hot months and is one-and-a-half games back of the San Antonio Spurs.

Repeat performance?
The Clippers are 2-0 this season against the Rockets, winning by an average of 16.0 points per game.

Los Angeles found success against the Rockets by shooting well from long range, as well as having a balanced attack.

The Clippers averaged 12.0 three point field goals per game and show 38.7 percent from that distance in the first two meetings. Houston averaged 7.0 three point field goals and shot just 27.5 percent from that range.

In those two meetings four Clippers averaged 18+ points per game – J.J. Redick (24.0), Griffin (20.0), Jamal Crawford (18.5) and Chris Paul (18.5). Paul also dished out 15.0 assists per game.

L.A.’s success against Houston extends beyond this season, as the Clippers have won seven of their last eight games against the Rockets.

Top things to know: Clippers at Thunder

February, 23, 2014
Feb 23
1:21
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Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty ImagesBlake Griffin's improved jump shot is helping him put together the best offensive season of his career.
The Los Angeles Clippers visit the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday (ABC, 1 p.m. ET). Here are the top things you need to know.

Blake Griffin has posted a higher scoring average than Kevin Durant this month, averaging 33.9 PPG in February to Durant’s 32.5 (only Kevin Love is averaging more than Griffin this month).

In fact, his scoring average has improved each month this season, from 21.5 PPG in October/November. Griffin has scored nine straight 25-point games, the longest such streak of his career.

Overshadowed by Durant and LeBron James, Griffin is quietly having an MVP-caliber season and has become more than just a dunker. One of the primary reasons is his improved jump shot.

Season series
Durant is averaging 30.5 points, 9.0 assists and 6.0 rebounds in two games against the Clippers this season. He’s averaging 32.6 points over his last five games against the Clippers.

• Westbrook is averaging 15.5 points on 38.7 percent shooting against the Clippers this season.

• Serge Ibaka is averaging 15.0 points on 14-of-16 shooting against the Clippers this season. But he’s totaled only 3.5 rebounds in those games, down from his season average of 8.7.

• Griffin is averaging 24.5 points, 11.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists against the Thunder this season.

• Chris Paul is averaging 15.5 points and 14.0 assists against OKC this season.

Season notes
Both teams are in the top 11 in points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, but the Thunder have been the much better rebounding team.

• Durant has scored 25 points in 21 straight games, the second-longest streak of his career (29 straight in 2009-10).

• DeAndre Jordan is posting career highs in points (9.9), rebounds (14.0) and blocks (2.4) this season. He’s recorded double-digit rebounds in 33 of his past 34 games.

• Jamal Crawford is averaging 23.6 points over his last 16 games, nearly a seven-point increase over his scoring average through the first 40 games of the season.

Point guard battle
The Thunder welcomed Russell Westbrook back to the lineup on Thursday. They’re 22-8 (.733) without him and 21-5 with him (.808) this season. The Clippers, on the other hand, have a lower win percentage with Chris Paul in the lineup (.632) than without him (.684).

Paul is 10-7 in his career against Westbrook, and he’s gotten the better of him statistically, averaging more points and assists and fewer turnovers in head-to-head meetings.

Rolling Thunder
At 43-13, OKC has a league-best .768 win percentage. The only season the franchise posted a better mark came in 1995-96, when the Seattle SuperSonics had a .780 win percentage.

• The Thunder posted a .732 win percentage last season. Should they increase their win percentage again this season, it would be the sixth consecutive season they have done so. The Timberwolves hold the NBA record for most consecutive seasons with a win percentage increase (six seasons spanning 1991-92 through 1997-98, but their highest during that span was .549).

Records shattered in NBA All-Star Game

February, 17, 2014
Feb 17
12:24
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Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty ImagesKyrie Irving was named NBA All-Star Game MVP.
If you like offense, dunks and 3-pointers, and you hate defense, then you loved the 2014 NBA All-Star Game.

This year's version of the All-Star Game set offensive record upon record. Most notably, the teams combined for 318 points, shattering the previous record of 303 set in 1987.

The Eastern Conference won the game, snapping a three-game losing streak for the Western Conference. A win for the West would've been the first four-game win streak in All-Star Game history.

The East overcame an 18-point deficit, ending the game on a 10-0 run.

The East scored 163 points, setting a new record for most points in an All-Star Game. The previous record was 155 by the West in 2003, a game that went to two overtimes. The West tied the previous record with 155 points, despite the loss.

Kyrie Irving won the All-Star Game MVP award, joining LeBron James (twice) as the only Cleveland Cavaliers players to win that honor. Irving finished with 31 points on 14-of-17 shooting and 14 assists. He was 11-for-11 inside the 3-point arc.

Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin each scored a game-high 38 points, tying Rick Barry for the third-most points in an All-Star Game. Wilt Chamberlain scored 42 in 1962 and Michael Jordan scored 40 in 1988.

Griffin set the record for most field goals in an All-Star Game with 19. The previous record was 17 by Wilt Chamberlain in 1962, Michael Jordan in 1988 and Kevin Garnett in 2003. Ten of Griffin's 19 field goals were dunks.

The game was full of 3-point attempts. The teams combined for 100 3-point attempts, destroying the previous record of 71 set last year. The West set a single-team record for 3-point attempts with 56, easily besting the previous record of 39 by the East last year. The West set a new record for most 3-pointers made with 16.

The 3-point barrage was led by Carmelo Anthony, whose eight 3-pointers broke the previous record of six by Mark Price in 1993 and LeBron James in 2012.


Wednesday a big night for the big men

February, 5, 2014
Feb 5
10:36
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Last season, for the first time in NBA history, there were no players who averaged at least 20 points and 10 rebounds per game.

We have seen a resurgence of promising young big men, with four players averaging such numbers this season, all in the Western Conference. And that’s not including Blake Griffin, who is on the cusp.

All five are playing on Wednesday night. Here’s a number to know for each:

LaMarcus Aldridge, Trail Blazers
LaMarcus Aldridge will be facing the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden (8 PM ET, ESPN). Aldridge is averaging a career high 24.3 points and 11.6 rebounds per game this season.

Aldridge has made an NBA-high 272 mid-range jumpers (54 more than next player – Dirk Nowitzki) this season on 43 percent shooting.

Aldridge also is averaging 8.6 post-up points per game this season, third most in the league behind Al Jefferson and Zach Randolph.

Blake Griffin, Clippers
Griffin and the Los Angeles Clippers host the Miami Heat (10:30 PM, ESPN). Griffin is just shy of averaging 20 and 10 this season, but right now, he is on pace to be the first player to average at least 18 points and eight rebounds per game in his first four seasons since Elton Brand from 2000 to 2003.

The Clippers are even relying on Griffin to handle the ball in transition with Chris Paul out. Griffin has 37 assists in transition this season, two shy of his total from last season.

Anthony Davis, Pelicans
Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans host the Atlanta Hawks. Davis is averaging more 20 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks this season. The last player to do that for a full season, at age 20 or younger, was Shaquille O'Neal in his rookie season (1992-93).

Kevin Love, Timberwolves
Kevin Love enters his matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder with an NBA-high 41 double-doubles this season. Love is averaging more 25 points and 13 rebounds per game for the year. On Tuesday, Love had his 25th game with at least 30 points and 15 rebounds, surpassing Kevin Garnett for the most in team history.

DeMarcus Cousins, Kings
DeMarcus Cousins and the Sacramento Kings host the Toronto Raptors. Cousins is averaging career highs in points and rebounds this season. He has the highest usage percentage (33 percent) in the league (a stat that is an estimate of the percentage of team plays used by a player while he is on the floor). On top of that, he's shooting a career-high 49 percent from the field.

Wall can't find shot, does find teammates

November, 20, 2013
11/20/13
1:19
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Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty ImagesJohn Wall's shooting slump continued, but his passing helped set up a Wizards win
One of the closest games of the night came in Washington as the Wizards took a four-point win against the Minnesota Timberwolves by outscoring the visitors 7-2 in the last minute.

For the 2nd time in his career, John Wall had 16 assists with just 1 turnover. He also did it on March 22, 2013. Since the start of last season the only other player with 16 assists in a game in which he had 1 or fewer turnovers was Rajon Rondo on Nov. 25, 2012.

Setting up his teammates allowed Wall to overcome yet another poor shooting night. The speedy point guard finished 5-17 from the field (29 percent). That makes three straight games and five of the last six in which Wall has shot below 30 percent from the field.

Wall’s shooting issues this season have come primarily when he keeps the ball on pick-and-roll plays (32 FG pct) and in isolation (19 FG pct).

Big Love
Kevin Love
Love
Not to be overshadowed in the loss for the Timberwolves was yet another big game out of Kevin Love, who is showing no ill effects from last season’s right hand and left knee injuries.

After scoring 25 points Monday, Love has 320 points on the season through 12 games – just 10 points shy of his total from all of last season when he was limited to 18 games.

This was Love’s fifth game this season in which he had at least 25 pts, 10 boards and four assists. The only other player with more than one such game is Paul Millsap who has done it twice.

Love leads the NBA with 10 games of at least 20 points and 10 rebounds this season.

This is the second season that Kevin Love has had ten 20-point, 10-rebound games in his team’s first 12 games of a season. The only other player over the last 25 years to do that twice is Karl Malone. The only others to do it once are Kevin Garnett, Hakeem Olajuwon and David Robinson.

Clippers streaking to the top of the West

December, 21, 2012
12/21/12
11:43
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Kent Smith/NBAE/Getty ImageBlake Griffin and the Clippers have had a lot to celebrate this year.
Showtime has returned to Los Angeles. This time, it’s in the form of Clipper red, royal blue and white, and not the traditional purple and gold.

The Clippers have emerged this season as top Western Conference contenders and one of the best teams in the NBA.

Los Angeles has won its last 11 games, matching the franchise's longest win streak, originally set by the 1974-75 Buffalo Braves.

At 19-6, the Clippers are off to their best 25-game start in franchise history. Last year, they finished the regular season 40-26, recording the highest single-season win percentage in franchise history at .606.

This season they have even higher expectations, as they’ve shown improvements in several key areas, propelling them into the NBA’s elite.

Defense
"Defense Wins Championships" is the motto the Clippers have adopted this season. They ranked 18th in defensive efficiency last season, allowing 102.9 points per 100 possessions. This season Los Angeles ranks fourth, allowing 97.7 points per 100 possessions.

The Clippers’ pressure defense has been outstanding this year, forcing an NBA-high 17.5 turnovers per game.

They have also been able to turn their opponents’ miscues into scoring opportunities better than any team in the league.

They average an NBA-high 22 points off turnovers, including a season-high 31 points off turnovers in their 93-77 win Wednesday over the New Orleans Hornets.

Offense
On the offensive side of the ball, the Clippers have picked up where they left off last season. They remain one of the most efficient offenses in the NBA, averaging 107.7 points per 100 possessions.

The Clippers are finding easy ways to score. They rank third in the league in field goal percentage, likely due to where on the court their shots are coming from.

The Clippers thrive in the paint, where 47.3 percent of their total points have been scored. Only the Denver Nuggets score a higher percentage of their points in that area at 53.8 percent.

The high-flying frontcourt duo of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan has fueled the team’s success inside.

Both players rank in the top five in dunks for the third consecutive season. In fact, Griffin’s 472 dunks over the last three seasons are the most in the NBA in that span.

Bench
The Clippers’ biggest improvement has been their increased depth. They rank second in the NBA in bench points per game, a significant jump for a unit that ranked 26th in scoring last season.

The Clippers’ reserves have played a key role in the team’s recent surge, outscoring their opponents’ bench in nine of the last 10 games overall.

The biggest spark off the bench is Jamal Crawford, who leads all reserves in scoring at 16.6 points per game. Despite not starting, he has been the team’s primary closer this season. Crawford averages 7.2 points in the fourth quarter, trailing only Kobe Bryant in that category this season.

The Clippers will host the Kings on Friday at the Staples Center. With a win, they would match the Thunder for the longest win streak this season.

2012 Team USA: Better than Dream Team?

July, 12, 2012
7/12/12
1:11
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US PresswireWould the current U.S. Olympic team have a chance against the Dream Team?
Kobe Bryant believes the 2012 U.S. Olympic team would beat the 1992 Olympic team. Is he correct?

According to AccuScore, which ran 10,000 computer simulations, the 1992 team would win 53.1 percent of the time and by an average margin of one point per game.

No one will ever know the true answer, but let's take a look at the Next Level analytical facts about the rosters at each point of their careers to help make the case either way.

REBOUNDING AND DEFENSE

Much has been made about the current team’s weak frontcourt. The 1992 team had four players who grabbed at least 15 percent of available rebounds in 1991-92 (Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, David Robinson). The current team has three players at that rebound rate last season (Tyson Chandler, Blake Griffin, Kevin Love).

The 1992 team had two players (Ewing, Robinson) who blocked at least 5 percent of the shot attempts they faced in 1991-92. No 2012 player had a block percentage higher than 3.4 last season (Chandler).

SHOOTING

Four current members had a true shooting percentage (a measure of shooting efficiency that takes into account 2-pointers, 3-pointers and free throws) of at least 60 last season (Chandler, Kevin Durant, James Harden, LeBron James). Chandler (70.8 in 2011-12) led the NBA each of the past two seasons. Only one of the 1992 members had a 60 true shooting percentage (Barkley), although three others fell just short of that threshold in 1991-92 (Malone, Robinson, John Stockton).

PASSING

Five Dream Team members assisted on at least 25 percent of their teammates’ field goals in 1991-92 (Larry Bird, Clyde Drexler, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Stockton), plus Magic Johnson had a 49.3 assist percentage in his most recent NBA season (1990-91). LeBron, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and Deron Williams had a 25 assist percentage or better last season, but none were as high as Stockton (53.7), who was in the midst of leading the league in assist percentage for 10 straight seasons.

AGE, EXPERIENCE AND CHAMPIONSHIPS

The 1992 team was about 2½ years older on average (28.8-26.2). Other than Bird and Magic, every Dream Team member was 30 years old or younger. Every member of the current team is 29 or younger, other than Kobe, who is 33.

But the NBA experience level is about the same. The 1992 team had, on average, 7.3 years of experience per player. This year’s team has 7.1.

As far as NBA titles, give the edge to the 1992 team. Its players had a combined 12 championships as they entered the Olympics -- five by Magic, three by Bird and two each from Jordan and Pippen.

The 2012 version has seven championships among them, carried by Kobe’s five. LeBron and Chandler each have one. The current team has members of each of the past four NBA champions, while the 1992 team had members of the then-past two champions.

PLAYER VALUE/EFFICIENCY

Using average win shares per 48 minutes in their previous NBA seasons, (including Magic’s 1990-91 season and not including Christian Laettner), the 1992 squad’s average is higher by 9 percent (.215-.198). Prefer player efficiency rating to win shares? The Dream Team’s PER was 3 percent higher (23.8-23.0).

IN THEIR PRIME?

Other than Laettner, all 11 Dream Team members are Hall of Famers. And only two could be considered in the twilight of their careers. Bird had just finished his last NBA season, while Magic had retired the previous year, although he made a brief comeback in 1995-96. As for this edition, one could make the case that all but the 33-year-old Kobe on the roster could appear on another Olympic team again.

The 2012 team gets under way with an exhibition game Thursday against the Dominican Republic on ESPN at 9 p.m. ET. Only time will tell whether this team is the modern-day Dream Team.

James and Durant deliver differently

June, 12, 2012
6/12/12
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Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE/Getty ImagesJames attacked the basket far more than Durant, but Durant owned the perimeter this season.
Three-time NBA MVP LeBron James and three-time defending scoring champion Kevin Durant will go head-to-head in the NBA Finals (ABC and ESPN3, 9 ET), making it the 12th time in NBA Finals history that a matchup involved players who finished 1-2 in the MVP voting for that season.

James leads the Miami Heat into the Finals for the second consecutive season, making it his third-career Finals appearance overall. Durant will make his first-career Finals appearance, leading the Oklahoma City Thunder to the franchise’s first championship round since they were the Seattle SuperSonics in 1996.

As dynamic as these two prolific scorers are, they record their points in different ways. Let’s take a look at the breakdown of each player’s strengths and the history of the matchup.

Easy Baskets

During the regular season, James attacked the basket more than Durant. Among the 1,683 total points James scored, 37.4 percent occurred within five feet of the basket. Only 24.1 percent of Durant’s baskets were scored within that range.

Inside the paint, James was one of the league’s leaders. He recorded 12.2 points per game in the paint, the fourth-highest average among all players this season.

Perimeter Shooting

On the perimeter, Durant has the edge. Of his NBA-high 1,850 total points, 43.4 percent of Durant’s points were scored outside of the paint. By comparison, James only recorded 31.9 percent of his points from outside that area.

Also, Durant is the better pure shooter. From 15 feet and beyond, Durant connected on 42.5 percent of his field goals, trailing only Dirk Nowitzki (44.8) and Chris Paul (42.6) among players that ranked in the top 20 in scoring during the regular season.

The Real Help

James might play alongside former Finals MVP Dwyane Wade, but Durant has benefited the most from his team’s point guard play. Overall, 48.1 percent of Durant’s field goals were assisted during the regular season, compared to just 37.4 percent of James’ field goals.

Much of that was a result of Durant playing alongside All-Star guard Russell Westbrook. Although Westbrook isn’t viewed much as a distributor, he assisted on 171 of Durant’s field goals, the third-most assists by one player on a single teammate’s field goals in the NBA this season. Only Steve Nash (217 to Marcin Gortat) and Chris Paul (187 to Blake Griffin) assisted more of a teammate’s field goals.

History Dominated by James

Game 1 will be the 10th meeting between James and Durant, with the previous nine coming in the regular season. Durant holds the scoring edge with a 27.3 points average, but James has been more efficient from the field shooting 49.7 percent. Overall, James has dominated the most important category, winning seven of the nine meetings. The Heat and Thunder split the 2011-12 regular season series 1-1.

Grizzlies dominate stats, but not series

May, 11, 2012
5/11/12
1:52
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The Memphis Grizzlies face elimination Friday (ESPN, 9 ET) in Game 6 of their NBA playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers, but the Grizzlies might be convinced that they’re the better team and should force this series back to Memphis for a Game 7.

The Grizzlies have outscored L.A. 478-465, and the Clippers have been in the lead only 82 of the 254 total minutes in this series.

And that was before injuries to Clippers stars Blake Griffin and Chris Paul made them game-time decisions for this matchup.

Even if they play, Griffin’s sprained left knee and Paul’s right hip flexor could limit their minutes and impact, and the Clippers don’t fare well without them. The Clippers’ points per 100 possessions this season, playoffs included, show a stark difference in performance (see chart) when these two aren’t on the floor for Los Angeles.



The Grizzlies’ problems in this series were evident on the scoreboard -- they were winning the first three quarters by a 74.4-66.2 average margin, but they couldn’t close out those games and found themselves in a 3-1 hole.

The Grizzlies found their solution in Game 5 and when big men Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol came alive. After averaging a combined 23 points in the first four games, Randolph and Gasol combined for 42 on Wednesday.

But above all else, whether Los Angeles can extend their home postseason win streak to five and advance to the next round probably comes down to how much Griffin and Paul can contribute.

When they’re both on the court, the Clippers dominate to the tune of a plus-303 point differential. With only one of their two stars playing, they were 29 points better than their opponents. And when neither was on the court, they were 149 points short of their opponents.
Stats & Info insights into this morning's top sports stories

1. SPURS FINISH OFF SWEEP: The San Antonio Spurs defeated the Utah Jazz, 87-81, finishing a four-game sweep to advance to the Western Conference Semifinals. This was the Spurs sixth postseason sweep since Tim Duncan was a rookie in the 1997-98 season. According to Elias, that ranks second in the NBA. Only the Los Angeles Lakers, with seven, have more over the last 15 seasons.

2. PAUL & GRIFFIN LEAD CLIPPERS TO VICTORY: The Los Angeles Clippers defeated the Memphis Grizzlies, 101-97 in overtime, to take a 3-1 series lead. According to Elias, the Clippers became the first NBA team to have a pair of players (Chris Paul, Blake Griffin), with at least 25 points and at least seven assists in a playoff game since they did it themselves back on May 14, 2006 (Elton Brand had 30 and eight and Sam Cassell had 28 and nine in a victory over the Phoenix Suns).

3. RANGERS EARN HISTORIC WIN: The New York Rangers defeated the Washington Capitals, 3-2 in overtime to take a 3-2 series lead. That win would not have been possible if Brad Richards hadn’t tied the game with seven seconds left in regulation. According to Elias, this is the first NHL postseason to have three games feature game-tying goals in the final 15 seconds of regulation. The first-two games in the Phoenix Coyotes - Chicago Blackhawks series also had such goals.

4. COYOTES IN UNCHARTED TERRITORY: The Coyotes defeated the Nashville Predators, 2-1, to win the Western Conference Semifinals in five games. The Coyotes advanced to their first Conference Finals since joining the NHL in 1979-80. Prior to joining the NHL, the franchise (then known as the Winnipeg Jets) reached the WHA (Avco Cup) Finals five times in seven seasons.

5. WEAVER PERFECT 5-0: Jered Weaver allowed one earned run in six innings, as the Los Angeles Angels defeated the Minnesota Twins, 8-3. For the third time, Weaver has started a season 5-0. According to Elias, he joined Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens and Christy Mathewson as the only pitchers to start 5-0 in three seasons.

6. RED HOT ROOKIE: The Boston Red Sox defeated the Kansas City Royals, 11-5 to snap a five-game losing streak. Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks remained hot, going 3 for 5, with two home runs and five RBI. According to Elias, he tied the MLB record for most RBI (nine) in a player’s first four games to start career.

Stat Your Case: Davis or Robinson for POY

March, 2, 2012
3/02/12
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The latest College Basketball Nation Player of the Year Straw Poll shows a dead heat between Kentucky's Anthony Davis and Kansas's Thomas Robinson.

If Davis wins any of the three major awards, it would be historic even compared to Kentucky’s storied past. No Wildcat has ever won the Wooden Award, Naismith Award or AP Player of the Year. Among freshmen, only Kevin Durant has taken home the hardware, winning all three awards in the 2006-07 season.

Danny Manning was the last Jayhawk to win national player of the year, claiming both the Naismith and Wooden Awards after the 1987-88 season. No Kansas player has ever won the AP award, which was first awarded in 1961.

The advanced metrics are split on who the top player has been this season.

Davis leads the nation in Player Efficiency Rating (PER), a metric established by John Hollinger to measure overall effectiveness. Davis has a PER of 36 this season while Robinson’s PER is 29, 18th in the nation and second in the Big 12 behind Missouri's Ricardo Ratliffe.

KenPom.com's Player of the Year standings favor Robinson for the top spot. Davis comes in fourth in these rankings, behind Draymond Green and Jared Sullinger.

Case for Anthony Davis
Davis changes the game with his defense. Through 29 games, he has blocked 139 shots. He has a chance to set both the national freshman record, currently held by Marshall's Hassan Whiteside with 182 in 2009-10, as well as the overall SEC record, set at 170 by Mississippi State's Jarvis Varnado.

Davis is less polished on the offensive end of the floor, where he averages 14 points per game. The only AP National Player of the Year to average less than 15 points was Patrick Ewing for Georgetown in 1984-85.

Davis makes 66 percent of his shots from the field, among the best in the nation. If he keeps up his current pace, he’ll be the first player to average 14 points, nine rebounds and four blocks since Connecticut's Emeka Okafor in 2003-04.

Case for Thomas Robinson
While Davis is the nation’s top shot-blocker, Robinson is near the top in rebounding. He is second nationally in rebounds per game and first in defensive rebounding percentage.

With a small increase in rebounds per game, Robinson could join Kansas legends Wilt Chamberlain and Clyde Lovellette as the only players in school history to average 17 points and 12 rebounds in a season. The last three power six conference players to reach both thresholds are Blake Griffin, Michael Beasley and Tim Duncan.

Robinson is second in the nation and first among power six conference players with 21 double-doubles this season. Only three players in Big 12 history have recorded more in a season – Griffin, Beasley and Drew Gordon.

Robinson averaged less than 8 points per game last season. No AP Player of the Year winner has ever averaged fewer than 10 points per game the previous season.

Anticipated seasons by "other" teams

December, 21, 2011
12/21/11
2:47
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Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty ImagesWith Blake Griffin and Chris Paul leading the way, hopes are high for the Clippers
It was a tale of two offseasons for the Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers. While Chris Paul joined Blake Griffin in what promises to be one of the most electric duos in the NBA, the Lakers traded away Lamar Odom and failed in bids to acquire either Paul and/or Dwight Howard.

Given the sudden relevance of the Clippers and the notion that the Lakers could be slipping, it’s worth asking if the Clippers – often perceived to be “the other team in L.A.” – have completely closed the gap between themselves and their Staples Center co-tenants.

Los Angeles has been a two-team NBA city for 27 seasons. Since the Clippers moved from San Diego to Los Angeles prior to the 1984-85 season, they have had a better record than the Lakers just four times. Might 2011-12 be the fifth?

Here are some other anticipated seasons by often overshadowed “other" teams:

“Other” team: New York Mets
Overshadowed by: New York Yankees
Anticipated Season: 2005

Prior the 2005 season, the Mets went on a free agent splurge session by spending over $170 million dollars for Carlos Beltran and Pedro Martinez. The Mets were full of promise - Jose Reyes and David Wright were on the upswing, Mike Piazza was still an All-Star and Willie Randolph was brought in to replace Art Howe. The Mets failed to live up to the hype however, winning 83 games and missing the playoffs (although they did make it to the NLCS the following season).

“Other” team: Manchester City
Overshadowed by: Manchester United
Anticipated season: 2009-10

Forever in the shadow of Manchester United, Man City began to emerge as a major player in the summer of 2008 when they acquired Brazilian striker Robinho from Real Madrid for a $50.5 million transfer fee, which at the time was the fourth-most expensive transfer of all-time. As it turns out, they were just getting warmed up. The next summer they took spending to an unprecedented level, parting with more than $150 million dollars to bring in Carlos Tevez, Gareth Barry, Emmanuel Adebayor and Kolo Toure among others. City went on to finish fifth in 2009-10, narrowly missing out on qualifying for the UEFA Champions League (and finishing behind Manchester United).


“Other” team: USC men’s basketball
Overshadowed by: UCLA
Anticipated season: 2000-01

Long in the shadow of UCLA, USC entered the 2000-01 season with high hopes. The Trojans were ranked 23rd in the preseason AP Poll, the first time since 1978-79 that they entered a season ranked in the preseason. Although USC lost both of its games against UCLA, it did manage to make it deeper into the NCAA Tournament. Both teams lost to eventual national champion Duke, with UCLA falling in the Sweet 16 and USC bowing out in the Elite 8.
Tennessee junior Jeronne Maymon had never scored more than 14 points or pulled down more than 12 rebounds in his career. In Tuesday’s 99-97 double overtime loss to the Memphis, he came out of nowhere for 32 points and 20 rebounds. That performance put him in some pretty elite company.

Maymon became the first power six conference player with a 30-point, 20-rebound game since Blake Griffin. Before that, the previous two were Michael Beasley and Kevin Durant. The last Tennessee player with a 30-20 game was Steve Hamer in the 1996 SEC Tournament. Maymon hit 16 free throws, the most by a Vol since Tony White (18) in 1987.

Marshall’s passing plan
Kendall Marshall handed out 15 assists as the Tar Heels took down Tennessee State 102-69. It’s the second time this season, and third time in his career, that Marshall has registered 15 assists. No other player in North Carolina history has more than one such game. Marshall is the first major conference player with two 15-assist games in the same season since Connecticut’s Marcus Williams in 2004-05.

Wisconsin’s badgering defense
Wisconsin's defense continues to stifle anyone it comes across. The Badgers held UMKC to 20.8 percent from the field in a 77-31 blowout. Through four games, all against D-I opponents, Wisconsin is holding foes to 34.0 ppg and a 26.2 FG pct. That’s 10.0 fewer than any other team is allowing thus far. Consider that Wisconsin basketball is allowing more than 10 points fewer per game than Wisconsin football is scoring (44.8).

Though it’s far too early to rationally project, it’s worth noting that Wisconsin is on pace for the second best scoring defense in D-I history behind only Oklahoma State (32.5 in 1948). Over the past 45 years, only five teams have held opponents below 50.0 ppg over an entire season.

Louisville’s stingiest game in 65 years
Louisville beat Arkansas State 54-27, the fewest points allowed by the Cardinals since a 60-27 win over Vanderbilt on January 5, 1946. It’s the fewest points scored by a Division I school since Ohio State held Samford to 22 points in November 2008.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this was just the third time a Big East team has held an opponent to 27 or fewer points in the conference’s 33 year history. Providence beat New Hampshire 56-27 in 1992 and Georgetown topped Columbia 38-26 in 1981.

Launch Mower
Lafayette's Jim Mower went 10-for-13 from 3-point range in the Leopards’ 85-74 win over Fairleigh Dickinson. That’s a school record for 3s in a game, and more than Mower had in his first four games combined (9).

Only four players reached double digits in 3s last season, and Mower is the first to do so in 2011-12. He’s the first to do it in November since Arkansas’ Rotnei Clarke in 2009. Mower finished with a career-high 37 points, crossing the 1,000-point threshold in the process.
• Middle Tennessee shot 71.4 percent from the field including 10-of-11 from 3-point range in an 86-66 drubbing of UCLA. The Blue Raiders connected on their first nine from long distance. Both the 71.4 FG pct and 90.9 3-pt FG pct are the highest allowed by UCLA in at least the last 15 seasons. The Bruins are off to their first 0-2 start since 2002-03. With Division II Chaminade on deck, the Bruins should avoid their first 0-3 start since 1940-41.

• After blocking seven shots in Tuesday’s 75-65 win over Kansas, Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis now has 12 blocks through two games. For comparison, consider that Jamaal Magloire, the most prolific shot blocker in school history, had three blocks in his first two games. Davis’ seven blocks are the most against Kansas since Boston College’s Sean Williams had seven in a game in 2006. Shane Battier is the last to have more. It’s also tied for the fifth highest single-game total in school history. Only Sam Bowie, Andre Riddick (twice) and Patrick Patterson had more in a game.

• Last night, Stephen Bardo tweeted that “J'Covan Brown of Texas playing better than any guard in nation right now.” It’s hard to argue otherwise after he torched Rhode Island for a career-high 35 points in the Longhorns’ 100-90 win. It’s the most points by a Longhorn since Kevin Durant in 2007. He’s also the first since Durant to score at least 28 points in back-to-back games. Brown added six assists and six rebounds. He also became the first player from a power six conference school with a 35-5-5 game since Greivis Vasquez in February 2010. The last Big 12 player to do it? Blake Griffin.

• After losing to Division II Ohio Dominican on Saturday, it didn’t seem like things could get worse for Southern Illinois. Tuesday brought the worst shooting performance in school history. The Salukis shot just 20.5 percent from the field in a 61-42 loss to Saint Louis. At halftime, the Salukis were just 4-for-22 (18.2 percent) from the field and didn’t have an assist. Southern Illinois finished with just one assist compared to 14 turnovers.

• Josh Davis had one of the most efficient games of the season in Tulane’s 96-50 win over Nicholls State. The transfer from NC State put up a career-high 23 points to go with 11 rebounds. He was 10-for-11 from the field, the top shooting performance this season among players with at least 10 attempts.

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