Stats & Info: Paul Pierce

Keys to victory: Nets 104, Heat 90

May, 11, 2014
May 11
Behind a strong effort from their offense, the Brooklyn Nets bounced back in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals to hand the Miami Heat their first loss this postseason, 104-90.

Deron Williams recovered from his scoreless outing in Game 2 with 9 points and 11 assists, his first double digit assist game of this postseason. Joe Johnson scored 19 points and Paul Pierce 14.

The Heat had not faced a fourth-quarter deficit in the 2014 playoffs and their first postseason loss since Game 5 of last year's NBA Finals. The loss matches the Heat's fifth biggest postseason loss in the Big-3 era (since 2010-11).

The Nets are now 2-10 all-time against Miami in the playoffs. The Heat had been an unsolvable riddle for the Nets before snapping a six-game playoff losing streak versus them.

James quiet after big first quarter
LeBron James scored 28 points for the Heat, his most in a game this series. He scored 16 points in the first quarter but had 12 the rest of the game. A key difference was his inability to make jump shots.

He was 4-of-5 shooting when Paul Pierce guarded him in the first quarter.

The rest of the series, James is 4-of-11 against Pierce, including 0-of-2 in the last three quarters of Game 3.

Nets strong from three-point line

The Nets were 15-25 from the three-point line (60 percent from deep), their most makes in a playoff game in 25 seasons. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this is the fifth time in NBA playoff history that a team has taken at least 25 three pointers and made 60 percent or more.

In Game 3, the Nets had 10 uncontested jump shots (47 total jumpers) and made eight (all assisted).

Heat struggle in the paint

Miami scored a postseason-low 26 points in the paint in Game 3. They had 43 PPG in the paint during the first two games of the series.

Keys to victory: Heat 94, Nets 82

May, 8, 2014
May 8
Behind a strong defense, the Heat took a 2-0 series lead as Miami heads to Brooklyn.

LeBron James and Ray Allen outshined the Nets, but the Heat's defense was the story. Miami held Deron Williams scoreless, the Nets point guard's first game without points since 2006.

Heat lock down Nets, Williams

Williams did not score Thursday night for the first time in 702 regular-season and playoff games in which he played at least 15 minutes. The last time he didn't score was Jan. 30, 2006, when he played nine minutes against the Spurs.

Williams was 5 of 8 on jump shots in Game 1, as only three were contested by Heat defenders. On Thursday, all five of his jumpers were contested.

The Heat improved to 34-2 this season when holding their opponent to an effective field goal percentage of 50 percent or worse. The Nets' effective field goal percentage was 47 percent Thursday.

LeBron overcomes Pierce's D

James scored 22 points on 50 percent shooting. He has shot at least 50 percent in each game this postseason. But James struggled when defended by Paul Pierce.

James was 3 of 8 when guarded by Pierce (6 of 10 against all other players and in transition). James' average field goal distance against Pierce was 18 feet Thursday, nine feet farther than his average distance on his other attempts.

Allen outshines former teammates

Ray Allen has outscored his former teammates, Pierce and Kevin Garnett, 32-25 combined in the first two games of the series. Allen is shooting 61 percent from the floor compared with 35 percent for Pierce and Garnett.

Top stats to know: Nets vs Heat

May, 4, 2014
May 4
The most popular stat of the second round figures to be that the Brooklyn Nets went 4-0 against the Miami Heat in the regular season.

That was the most wins by any team in a season against the Heat in the “Big 3 era”.

The Heat had dominated the Nets the previous three seasons, winning all nine meetings, but 2013-14 was a little different.

How the Nets won in the regular season:
Slow it down, limit fast breaks and second chances

Why did the Heat struggle against the Nets this season?

The Nets forced the Heat to play at a slower pace, as the Heat averaged nearly five-and-a-half fewer possessions per game against the Nets than they did against all other teams.

The Nets averaged nearly six more possessions per game against all other teams than they do against the Heat this season.

The Nets played great defense against the Heat, holding them to nearly seven fewer points per 100 possessions compared to their games against all other teams.

How did they defend them so well?

The Heat averaged just 8.5 fast-break points and 3.8 second-chance points per game against the Nets, much below their averages against all other teams.

The Nets allowed more than 13 second-chance points per game against all teams this season.

Difference-Maker: Paul Pierce
Paul Pierce averaged 21.3 points in four games against the Heat, his highest scoring average against any team this season.

Pierce shot 45 percent from the field and made the most of his free-throw opportunities, converting 24 of 27 foul shots.

Pierce’s best game against the Heat this season was a 29-point effort on March 12, his most points in any regular-season game against them since scoring 36 on March 18, 2009.

The last time Pierce faced the Heat in the playoffs was in the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals. The Heat made life tough for him that series, holding him to 45 for 131 shooting from the field (34 percent) over the seven games.

What does the history show?
Only three teams have ever won the NBA title after being swept 4-0 by a single team during the regular season—the 1988-89 Detroit Pistons(swept by the New York Knicks), the 1994-1995 Houston Rockets (swept by both the Seattle SuperSonics and Los Angeles Lakers) and the 2000-2001 Lakers (swept by the SuperSonics).

The Elias Sports Bureau notes that the Nets will be the third team that swept a defending champ to meet that champ in a postseason series. In the other two instances, the sweeper (the 1995-96 SuperSonics and 2002-2003 Spurs) beat the champ (Rockets and Lakers) and ended up advancing to the NBA Finals.

Next Level nuggets from Saturday

April, 20, 2014
Apr 20
It was a wild opening to the NBA playoffs. Three of the four games were won by road teams, just the second time in NBA history that three road teams won Game 1 of the First Round on the first day of the postseason. It also happened in 1996.

Playoff games are all about matchups. Here are the biggest ones from the four Saturday games.

Nets 94, Raptors 87

Paul Pierce
The story of this game was Paul Pierce, who scored nine of his 15 points in the 4th quarter. Seven of those nine points were scored when Patrick Patterson was the primary defender.

DeMar DeRozan, however, had a much more disappointing day. He was 3-for-13 from the floor, including 1-for-9 on jump shots.

DeRozan averaged 9.6 points per game on jump shots during the regular season, tied for seventh best in the NBA..

Warriors 109, Clippers 105

Chris Paul scored 28 points Saturday, but struggled with Klay Thompson as his primary defender. Paul missed his first eight shots when guarded by Thompson, who also forced three of his six turnovers.

But Doc Rivers and the Clippers shouldn't want Paul to score that much. They now have seven wins and five losses this season when Paul scores 25 points or more. They're 37-12 when Paul scores fewer than 25.

Hawks 101, Pacers 93

Jeff Teague helped to snap the Hawks eight-game road playoff losing streak, scoring 28 points, a new playoff career high. 78 percent of his field goal attempts came on drives, and he scored 20 points on those shots (including free throws).

Teague averaged just 5.6 points per game on drives during the regular season.

Roy Hibbert, however, continued to struggle. Hibbert was 4-for-9 from the floor Saturday and has not made a shot outside the paint since April 4.

In his first 77 games this season, he shot 40 percent on such shots.

Thunder 100, Grizzlies 86

Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant had 33 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. That makes nine straight postseason games where Durant had 20 points, five rebounds and five assists, tied for the fourth-longest streak in NBA history.

The only Grizzlies player that could contain Durant Saturday was Tony Allen. He held Durant to 13 points on 5-of-14 shooting (36 percent) Saturday, but Durant scored 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting (73 percent) against everyone else.

But we all knew Durant is good and would be tough to stop. What we didn't know was how bad the Grizzlies would be outside of the paint.

Memphis missed its first 18 shots from outside the paint Saturday before hitting their last attempt of the second quarter. The Thunder outscored the Grizzlies 23-3 outside the paint in the first half, making up most of Memphis' 22-point halftime deficit.

Pierce shows he has a little bit left

March, 13, 2014
Mar 13
Paul Pierce still has the capability for a great offensive night, particularly when he faces the Miami Heat.
Paul Pierce

As Tom Haberstroh noted in his latest Big Number piece, the Brooklyn Nets turnaround can be largely attributed to the Brooklyn Nets decision to play Pierce at power forward more often, and that this has led to much better things on the defensive end.

Wednesday was a vintage Pierce game on the other end of the floor.

Pierce had totaled 27 points in his last three games, but had 29 in a 96-95 win.

Pierce was extra-efficient on Wednesday, going 6 for 9 on spot-up shots. He was 6 for 9 on spot-up shots, including 3 for 5 from 3-point range. He now has 37 points of spot-up shots in three games against the Heat this season (all Nets wins).

That’s more than double his average on those shots against the rest of the NBA (3.8 spot-up points per game).

Here are some other tidbits of note from the Nets victory.
James’ streak ends
LeBron James finished with 19 points, snapping a streak of 22 straight games with at least 20 points against the Nets.

That’s the second-longest such streak against the Nets in their history. The only player with a longer streak was Michael Jordan, who had a run of 39 straight such games from 1984 to 1995.

James was 2 for 7 outside the paint and is now 6 for 31 outside the paint in his last four games.

James missed a chance to even his career record in head-to-head matchups against Pierce. He’s 28-30 against him for his career.

Nets blitzing defense works again
The Nets forced 17 Heat turnovers, turning those into 22 points.

Since January 1, that's been the norm. The Nets are causing 18 turnovers per game and scoring 21.2 points per game off of those turnovers, both best in the NBA during that span.

Prior to the New Year, they ranked 24th in the NBA in turnovers forced per game (14.2) and 16th in points off turnovers (16.4).

Thrice is Nice … or maybe not
The Nets are the fifth team to beat the Heat three times in a single season in the James-Wade-Bosh era (since 2010-11). Three of the previous four lost to the Heat in the postseason (the 2010-11 Bulls and Celtics, and the 2011-12 Celtics).

No team has gone 4-0 against the Heat since the Big 3 came together (the 2010-11 Bulls went 3-0). The teams will meet one more time in the regular season, April 8 in Miami.

Embiid's Jayhawks control the paint

January, 18, 2014
Jan 18

John Rieger/USA TODAY SportsEmbiid tied a Big 12 freshman record with eight blocks in the game. Oklahoma State had three.
In a showdown that could feature three of the top five picks in the upcoming NBA Draft - Kansas's Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid against Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart - it was an Embiid block party that stole the show and controlled the paint in the Kansas Jayhawks win.

Embiid finished with eight blocks, breaking his own Kansas freshman record for blocks in a game and tying the Big 12 freshman record.

He rejected 26 percent of Oklahoma State's shots while he was on the floor. And he also tied a career high with nine defensive rebounds.

Kansas controls the paint
Embiid's presence on both ends contributed to a huge disparity in the paint: Kansas outscored Oklahoma State by 12 points in the paint despite taking fewer shots in the paint.

The Cowboys managed just 22 paint points on 26 shots, shooting less than 43 percent from the area.

For its part, Kansas shot 68 percent in the paint. Oklahoma State's defense wasn't much of a deterrent - while Embiid himself blocked eight shots for Kansas, the entire Oklahoma State team managed three.

Naadir Tharpe outshines Smart
On the offensive end for Kansas, Naadir Tharpe stole the show with his outside shooting.

Tharpe went 7-for-8 on shots outside the paint, finishing with a team-high 21 points.

His backcourt counterpart, projected top-five NBA draft pick Marcus Smart, finished at the opposite end of the spectrum. Smart missed all eight of his field goal attempts outside the paint.

Smart finished 3-for-14 from the field, a season-low 21.4 field goal percentage.

Historical notes
The Jayhaws won three straight regular-season games, all against ranked teams, for the first time since November 25-December 2, 1995. That year's team, which featured Raef LaFrentz, Paul Pierce and Jacque Vaughn, reeled off consecutive wins against No. 8 Utah, No. 15 Virginia and No. 23 UCLA.

After winning in Lawrence last year, Oklahoma State falls back to the wrong side of the coin. The Cowboys have lost 17 of their last 18 games at Allen Fieldhouse.

Denver provides the ultimate home court

February, 19, 2013

Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty ImagesThe Nuggets play a different brand of basketball at home
The Denver Nuggets started the season 11-12 but have run off a 22-9 record since then. What changed? 17 of Denver’s first 23 games were on the road, but since then, they’ve played 19 of 31 at home.

Since the New Year, the Nuggets have the second-best record in the NBA (16-6) by reeling off 13 wins in 15 home games, including seven straight. They are currently sitting fifth in the Western conference. Tonight they host the Boston Celtics to tip off post-All-Star break action.

Since 2000-01, the Nuggets have won nearly 68 percent of their home games but only 38 percent of their road games. No team has seen a higher increase in winning percentage from road to home games than the Nuggets.

At home, the Nuggets are a dynamic team that scores 110 points per 100 possessions (4th in NBA) and allows 99.5 points per 100 possessions (9th in NBA).

The Nuggets have a better offensive efficiency at home than the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers and a better defensive efficiency than the Oklahoma City Thunder, Miami Heat and New York Knicks.

During the 16-6 stretch, they are forcing 17 turnovers a game, leading to 22 points per game on offense, both of which lead the NBA over this stretch. The Nuggets ability to create turnovers and willingness to get out on the break have led to a league-high 58.7 paint points per game since January 1st.

The Nuggets are having a historic year, averaging 56.8 points per game in the paint. The last team to come close to that type of production was the 1997-98 Los Angeles Lakers with 54.1 points in the paint per game.

The Celtics won at home 118-114 (OT) on February 10, part of an 8-1 stretch for the Celtics since Rajon Rondo’s injury.

Paul Pierce had his eighth career triple double (27-14-14)

The Celtics won despite giving up a season-high 62 points in the paint (outscored by 32 in the paint).

Paul Pierce is averaging 7.2 assists per game since the Rondo’s injury (3.8 prior).

Since January 1st, Ty Lawson is scoring 19.2 points per game while shooting 49.7 percent from the field (13.6 PPG and 40.8 FG pct prior).

After loss, free agency could end Celtics era

June, 10, 2012
The Boston Celtics fell short of the NBA Finals for the second straight season, bowing out to the Miami Heat in back-to-back seasons. With Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen entering free agency, is this the end of an era in Boston?

Possible players on the move
Garnett is an unrestricted free agent after making $21.2 million this season. He turned 36 last month, but was the key for the Celtics on both ends of the court this postseason.

In the 737 minutes he was on the court in the playoffs, the Celtics outscored opponents by 138 points. They were outscored by 118 points in the 238 minutes he was off the floor. That wasn’t a fluke, as the Celtics were +267 with Garnett on the floor during the regular season compared to -101 with him on the bench.

Allen is also an unrestricted free agent this summer and will turn 37 years old in July. He wasn’t as productive in the playoffs this year as he was the past four years. He averaged nearly 17 points in 39 minutes per game from 2008-11, but in 2012 those numbers declined by six points and five minutes.

Brandon Bass, who just finished his first season with the Celtics, has a $4 million player option for next season. Bass set career highs this season, averaging 32 minutes, 13 points and six rebounds per game.

Even if they have played their last game together, Paul Pierce, Garnett and Allen have already cemented their legacy in Boston. This is the fourth memorable era in Celtics history.

Red Auerbach failed to make the NBA Finals during his first six years as head coach of the Celtics, but Bill Russell’s arrival for the 1956-57 season was the beginning of one of the greatest dynasties in sports history. The Celtics went on to capture 11 championships during Russell’s 13-year career.

After Russell’s retirement in 1969, the Celtics missed the playoffs in 1970 and 1971, but it wasn’t long before they were back on top again.

John Havlicek, Dave Cowens, and Jo Jo White helped lead Boston to titles in 1974 and 1976. The Celtics also made it to the Conference Finals in 1972, 1973 and 1975.

Boston was eliminated in the Conference Semifinals in 1977 and missed the playoffs entirely the next two seasons, but Larry Bird landed in Boston for the 1979-80 season and the rest was history.

The Celtics made five NBA Finals appearances and won three titles during Bird’s 13-year career, which ended in 1992 with a 4-games-to-3 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Conference Semifinals.

After experiencing a 21-season championship drought, Pierce, Garnett, and Allen guided the Celtics to a title during their first season together in 2008.

Garnett missed the playoffs the following year due to injury and the Celtics lost in the Conference Semifinals, but Boston made it back to the Finals in 2010, falling to the Los Angeles Lakers in a hard-fought seven game series.

The Celtics couldn’t get by the Heat the last two seasons, losing in five games in the 2011 Conference Semifinals and coming up just short this year in the Conference Finals.

Celtics have trouble closing series

June, 6, 2012

Steve Mitchell/US PresswireThe Celtics are just 11-13 since 2007-08 with the chance to clinch a series.
A veteran squad such as the Boston Celtics have plenty of experience in closing out series, and will have the opportunity to do so against the Miami Heat in Game 6 on Thursday (8:30 ET, ESPN). But the Celtics haven't been as successful as fans might think when it comes to eliminating opponents recently.

Since Boston's Big 3 (Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen) formed entering the 2007-08 season, the Celtics have in fact struggled closing out postseason series. When having the opportunity to clinch, Boston is just 11-13 in those games over that span. This postseason, the Celtics are 2-2 in such games but just 0-2 in the first opportunity. The one silver lining, however, is that Boston is 9-2 in such chances at home.

LeBron James, however, has trailed 3-2 in a best-of-seven series four times in his postseason career. Each time, his team went on to lose the series, including suffering defeat at the hands of the Celtics twice. Only once out of those four times has a James-led team been able to force a Game 7.

What's more, James is usually at his postseason worst when trailing in a series. When his team is tied or leads the series, James is averaging 28.5 points per game while shooting 47.6 percent from the floor. Compare that to when his team trails the series; in those situations, James is putting up 27.4 points per game with a field goal percentage of just 42.8. His turnovers per game also increase from 3.2 to 5.3.

Miami now has Chris Bosh back in the lineup, but his addition did not help the Heat in Game 5, as they were outscored by 12 points in the 14 minutes with Bosh on the court. In addition, Miami was 20.8 percent from the floor with Bosh in the game and had more turnovers (seven) than field goals (five).

History heavily favors the Miami Heat

June, 1, 2012

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty ImagesThe Miami Heat have never lost a seven-game series when they've won the first two games.
(The Boston Celtics host the Miami Heat in Game 3 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals, Friday at 8:30 ET on ESPN.)

If history is any indication, then the Miami Heat will be in the NBA Finals for a second consecutive year.

Overall, teams that lead 2-0 in a best-of-seven series advance 94.3 percent of the time. Miami’s percentage in such scenarios is even greater. In franchise history, the Heat have never lost a seven-game series after winning the first two games (7-0).

As for the Boston Celtics, they have lost eight of nine best-of-seven series when losing the first two games. The only seven-game series they won after dropping the first two games was the 1969 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers.

However, Boston gets the next two games at home, where they are 6-1 this postseason. The Celtics have outscored their opponents by eight points per game at home, and, the Heat are averaging 91.0 points per game on the road this postseason -- almost a 10-point drop from what they are averaging at home (100.4).

Since losing back-to-back games against the Indiana Pacers in the conference quarterfinals, the Heat have won five straight games. And it’s how the Heat have come out of the locker room after halftime that has played a big part in their win streak.

In each of the last five games, the Heat have outscored their opponents by at least 10 points in the third quarter. In the first two games of the conference finals, Miami is +24 points in the third quarter, but has been outscored by six points the rest of the game.

As for LeBron James, he continues to put up big numbers. He’s had at least 30 points and 10 rebounds in the first two games of this series, and has five 30-10 games this postseason.

In his career, James has scored at least 35 points in four playoff games at the TD Garden. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that is the most playoff games with at least 35 points for any player in that arena. Paul Pierce has scored at least 35 points in three playoff games at TD Garden.

However, much was made about the two go-ahead field goals James missed in the final 24 seconds of Game 2. James now has missed his last four game-tying or go-ahead field goals in the final 24 seconds of the fourth quarter or overtime of playoff games, dating back to his time with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

James is 0-for-3 on such shots with the Heat, but 5-for-14 (35.7 percent) in his postseason career. Not only is that percentage better than his teammate Dwyane Wade (2-7, 28.6), it’s much higher than the league average (27.0) over the last 16 seasons.

-- Ernest Tolden and Alok Pattani contributed to this post.

Celtics, 76ers no strangers to Game 7

May, 25, 2012

Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty Images The Celtics and 76ers meet in a winner-take-all Game 7 in Boston on Saturday night.
The Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics continue their storied playoff rivalry as they meet Saturday night (ABC, 8 ET) in Boston for the seventh all-time Game 7 between these franchises.

The Celtics own a 4-2 advantage in the previous six matchups, but the 76ers won the most recent game three decades ago in the 1982 Eastern Conference Finals.

Game 7 Stats To Know
History appears to be on the Celtics’ side as they are 17-4 all-time at home in Game 7s. They did lose their last such game in 2009 against the Orlando Magic, but they have never lost consecutive Game 7s at home. The Celtics are also 20-7 overall in Game 7s, the most such wins and second-best record in NBA history (min. five games).

The 76ers, on the other hand, are just 1-7 all-time on the road in Game 7s and haven’t played one since 1986. The franchise is 6-8 overall in Game 7s; the eight losses are tied for the most in NBA history.

Celtics Keys to the Game
The Celtics have yet to lose back-to-back games this postseason, having won all four contests following a loss. However, the Celts have not fared well trying to close out a series since the "Big 3" was formed entering the 2007-08 season. They are 10-13 in potential series clinchers (1-2 this postseason).

Kevin Garnett’s jump-shooting has kept the Celtics in this series. Garnett has made 26-of-55 (47 percent) jump shots from 15 feet and beyond. The rest of the Celtics have combined to shoot 30 percent from that distance this series.

The absence of Avery Bradley, who underwent season-ending shoulder surgery on Friday, is significant for the Celtics, as it takes away their best five-man lineup this postseason.

When Bradley, Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Brandon Bass and Garnett have been on the court together, the Celtics have outscored opponents by 53 points. Their next-best lineup has outscored opponents by only 18 points.

76ers Keys to the Game
Philadelphia is looking to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2001 and is trying to become the first No. 8 seed to reach the conference finals since the Knicks in the lockout-shortened 1999 season.

However, they will need to overcome history in order to make it to the next round.

The 76ers have lost each of the last 13 best-of-seven series in which they have trailed 3-2. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that is the longest such streak in NBA history.

One of the deciding factors in this series has been the 76ers' ability to establish the pick and roll. In their three wins, they’re averaging 11 points running the pick and roll. In their three losses, they’re averaging eight points on 29 percent shooting.

Offense has been an issue in the playoffs for the 76ers, who are scoring 86.6 points per game, the fewest among remaining teams. The 76ers haven’t scored more than 92 points in their last 10 games, the longest single postseason streak of its kind since the Pistons in 2006 (11 games).
Stats & Info insights into this morning's top sports stories

Paul Pierce
1. RARE CELTICS PERFORMANCE: Paul Pierce posted a statistical performance that hadn’t been done by a Boston Celtics player in the playoffs since 1977. Pierce finished with 36 points and 14 rebounds, the first Celtic to reach those levels in a playoff game since Dave Cowens in 1977. Tommy Heinsohn in 1957 is the only other Celtic to accomplish the feat.

2. KOBE KEEPS SCORING: Pierce wasn’t the only NBA veteran with a big scoring performance on Tuesday. Kobe Bryant, at 33 years old, scored 38 points in a win against the Denver Nuggets. FROM ELIAS: It’s the first time that two players age 33 or older have scored 35 points on the same day in the NBA playoffs.

3. WALK-OFF WIN: Let’s go to the other end of the age spectrum for this note. FROM ELIAS: Brett Lawrie, who turned 22 in January, hit his second career walk-off home run in the Toronto Blue Jays’ win over the Texas Rangers. Lawrie is the only player born in the 1990s to hit a walk-off home run. He is one of three active players to hit multiple walk-off homers before turning 23 years old. The others: Carl Crawford and Ryan Zimmerman.

4. FAMILIAR HONOR FOR POPOVICH: He’s won four NBA titles, and Tuesday Gregg Popovich was awarded his second NBA Coach of the Year award. He becomes the seventh coach in NBA history to receive that honor multiple times. Pat Riley and Don Nelson are the only coaches to win three of them. But this year’s San Antonio Spurs aren’t the same as those of the past. The Spurs averaged 103.7 points (second in NBA) this season, tying their highest average under Popovich.

Evan Longoria
5. LOSING LONGORIA: The Tampa Bay Rays will be without Evan Longoria (hamstring injury) for 4-8 weeks. Over the previous three seasons (2009 to 2011), Longoria is second among all position players in wins above replacement. Only Albert Pujols contributed more during that span. On the bright side, the Rays were 18-11 in the 29 games Longoria did not play last season. That’s a better winning percentage than their 73-60 record in games he did play.
Stats & Info insights into this morning's top sports stories

1. MEMORABLE CAREER: Legendary Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt is stepping down as head coach and will take the title of “head coach emeritus.” Long-time assistant coach Holly Warlick will be promoted to head coach to take Summitt’s position. Summitt won more games than any other coach – men’s or women’s – in Division I basketball history. She led Tennessee to eight national titles and she was a seven-time NCAA Coach of the Year.

2. A LOT OF SCORING: By scoring 10 goals against the Philadelphia Flyers, the Pittsburgh Penguins tied a franchise record for goals in a playoff game and the two teams helped make NHL history. Pittsburgh and Philadelphia have combined for 45 goals, the most in the first four games of a series in Stanley Cup Playoff history. And they’ve done their scoring early – 20 of the 45 goals have come in the first period. That’s also an NHL record.

3. RECORDS TIED: FROM ELIAS: The Penguins tied two NHL playoff records in the process. Their 10 goals equaled the record for most goals in a Stanley Cup playoff game by a road team, a mark set by the Kings in a 10-8 win at Edmonton in 1982 and matched by the Oilers with a 10-2 victory at Calgary in 1983. Pittsburgh also equaled the record for goals by one team in a playoff game in which it faced elimination. That standard was established by the Canadiens with a 10-3 win on home ice in Game 5 of their series against the Maple Leafs in 1945.

4. LEADING THE WAY: The Boston Celtics clinched their fifth straight Atlantic Division title by beating the Orlando Magic. They did it without Rajon Rondo, who sat with a sore lower back injury. Paul Pierce picked up the assists load by dishing out a career-high 14. The Celtics’ five straight titles are their most consecutive division titles since they won five straight from the 1983-84 to 1987-88 seasons during the Larry Bird era.

Ivan Rodriguez
5. PUDGE TO RETIRE: Reports indicate that Ivan Rodríguez will announce his retirement on Monday and will do so at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. He will retire as a 14-time All-Star who caught the most games of any player all time. Known as the best defensive catcher ever, Rodríguez won 13 Gold Glove awards, most among catchers.
Stats & Info insights into this morning's top sports stories

Paul Pierce
1. PIERCE AND KG LEAD THE WAY: Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett combined for 51 points as the Boston Celtics beat the Heat 115-107 in Miami. Boston shot 60.6 percent from the field, the highest allowed by the Heat in the “Big 3” era (last two seasons). The Celtics lead the league with 18 wins after the All-Star Break. They were just 15-17 before the break.

2. TWO UNDEFEATED TEAMS LEFT: After losses by the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Mets, the Detroit Tigers and Arizona Diamondbacks are the only undefeated teams remaining in MLB. The Tigers are 4-0 for the 1st time since 2006. That season, they made the World Series. The Diamondbacks are 4-0 for the 1st time in franchise history.

3. PETRINO OUT: Bobby Petrino is out as Arkansas head football coach. Petrino was 34-17 in 4 seasons at Arkansas. The 2011 Razorbacks finished with their highest AP Ranking since 1977 and tied a school-record with 11 wins. Their only losses were to the top-2 teams in the nation (Alabama and LSU).

4. PLAYOFF PUCK DROPS: The Stanley Cup Playoffs begin Wednesday with three games. The Vancouver Canucks won the President’s Trophy for the second straight season and they host the Los Angeles Kings in the quarterfinals. The Detroit Red Wings are in the playoffs for the 21st-straight season, the longest active streak in the four major pro sports. They open at Nashville. The Philadelphia Flyers-Pittsburgh Penguins series also begins Wednesday. Pittsburgh is the favorite to win the Stanley Cup according to MGM Resorts International with 7-2 odds.

Roy Halladay
5. DUELING ACES: Dueling aces square off on Wednesday Night Baseball on ESPN2, 7 ET as Roy Halladay and the Philadelphia Phillies host Josh Johnson and the Miami Marlins. Halladay and Johnson have faced each other three previous times since Halladay joined the Phillies. In those three games, a grand total of six runs were scored, including a perfect game from Halladay on May 29, 2010.
Statistically speaking, the Miami Heat put on a performance Friday night that was akin to what you might see in a game like NBA Jam.

The Heat’s 14 dunks are the most they’ve had in any game in the past five seasons. All but one were by either Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh. That was the most dunks the Heat have had in any game this season by a wide margin. Their next-most was 10 against the New York Knicks on January 27.

Those dunks in turn led to a season-high 64 points in the paint, including their first 18 of the game. The Heat’s Big Three was 23-for-32 from inside five feet.

Wade, James, and Bosh each made 11 field goals and shot over 60 percent from the field. Elias notes that the last trio to each shoot better than 60 percent AND make at least 11 shots from the field was Al Jefferson, Paul Pierce, and Tony Allen for the Boston Celtics in the 2006-07 season.

Elsewhere around the league the Dallas Mavericks entered its game against the Orlando Magic having won five straight road meetings. The longest current winning streak any team had against the Magic in Orlando.

Dwight Howard did his part to stop the streak with 19 points and 15 rebounds, marking his 42nd double-double this season (second-most in the NBA).

The Mavericks trailed most of the game even by as many as seven points entering the fourth quarter. However their defense forced the Magic into poor shooting and turnovers in the final period, which ultimately spelled doom for Orlando. The Magic shot just 35 percent from the field while turning it over six times.

The Mavericks took advantage of those mistakes, scoring nine points off of turnovers in the fourth quarter.

The final blow to the Magic was Dirk Nowitzki hitting the game-winning jumper with 5.9 seconds left.

Elias says it was the 11th time in his NBA career that Nowitzki made a game-winning basket in the final 10 seconds of a game, and the second time this season. Seven of Nowitzki’s 11 such hoops came on the road, including each of the last three.

The Mavericks are now 75-31 (.708) against Eastern Conference teams since Rick Carlisle took over as the team’s head coach in 2008. That is the highest inter-conference winning percentage for any team in the league over that span.

Number of the Night
The Celtics took over first place in the Atlantic Division with a win over the Minnesota Timberwolves and loss by the Philadelphia 76ers to the Washington Wizards. The 76ers had a share of first place for 93 straight days.

They entered first place on December 28, and held at least a share every day until Friday night.

Statistical support for this story from