Stat-Us Update: Jrue Holiday's Scoring Hot Streak

Stat-Us Update: Jrue Holiday's Scoring Hot Streak

The Sixers lost last night to a miserable Pacers team missing their leading scorer--let's just say that if it was still November, we might consider at least acting surprised. Truth told, I stopped rooting for the Sixers to win about halfway through the third quarter, and started to just pull for our 19-year-old rookie point guard Jrue Holiday to hit the 20-point mark in scoring--which he did, ending up with 21 for the night. This gives Jrue two 20-point games in a row (paired with the 21 he scored in Toronto), as well as three in his last five (including the 23 he put up against Orlando)--all this after not scoring more than 15 in any game before this March. Not bad.

It got me to thinking (and checking on Basketball-Reference.com) about who the last Sixer to post back-to-back 20-point games in his rookie season was. Specifically, I wondered if anyone had done it since Allen Iverson, who strung together consecutive 20-pointers 34 times in his astounding Rookie of the Year debut of '96-'97. Well, turns out that AI isn't the answer to this one (no pun intended), but I bet the guy who is wouldn't be your first guess. Or your second. Hell, it might not even make your top ten.

Indeed, to find the last Sixer newbie to post back-to-back 20-point games, you have to go back to 2001-02--bypassing the rookie years of Andre Iguodala, Thaddeus Young, Kyle Korver, Marreese Speights, Lou Williams and Willie Green--to the rookie season of one Craig "Speedy" Claxton. Speedy's debut year as a Sixer was hardly the stuff that dreams are made of, as he averaged just seven points and three assists a game for the season. But he was afforded an unusual opportunity at the beginning of the season as Iverson missed the first five games of the year with injury, and he was pressed into starting duty as AI's replacement. Claxton responded by scoring 20+ in three of his first four games, including in consecutive games against the Wizards and Pacers on November 3rd and 6th, respectively.

Iverson's return two weeks into the season (and not a moment too soon, as the Sixers started 0-5 in his absence) meant the return of Claxton to the bench, and though he did end up starting 12 more games for the Sixers over the course of that injury-plagued season, Speedy never hit the 20-point mark again in a Sixers uniform. Next season, Claxton was traded to the Spurs, where he provided insurance for a young Tony Parker at the point on the way to the Spurs winning their first of three titles in the 00s.

I think we're all hoping that Jrue's third 20-pointer as a Liberty Baller will be pretty far from his last, though. Indeed, with the young'n starting to come of age a little ahead of schedule, seeing The Damaja at work is probably the best reason to tune in to any Sixers game between now and the draft lottery. Even if he can't keep up the pace, he's given us a reason to give a crap about this team again. And I, for one, am grateful.

Flyers-Stars 5 things: Streaking like it's 2002?

Flyers-Stars 5 things: Streaking like it's 2002?

Flyers (16-10-3) vs. Stars (11-11-6)
1 p.m. on CSN and CSNPhilly.com

Remember when it was a fight for the Flyers to simply sew together back-to-back wins?

Prior to this run, they had done it just twice in the first 22 games.

Now, they’re the hottest team in the NHL, winners of seven straight and trying to make it eight on Saturday afternoon when they welcome the Dallas Stars to the Wells Fargo Center.

Here are five things you need to know for the matchup:

1. The great eight?
Jeremy Roenick, Mark Recchi, John LeClair and Eric Desjardins.

Roman Cechmanek and Brian Boucher.

These are just some of the players that were wearing Flyers jerseys when the team last won eight consecutive games, back on Jan. 6-19, 2002.

It’s worth mentioning, before the 2004-05 season, winning streaks were a bit more challenging with a tie being the result if overtime went scoreless. The extra session was also not 3-on-3, like it is now.

Still, what the current Flyers are doing is impressive. They’ve gone to the shootout only once over the seven-game spurt and have outscored the opposition by 10 goals, 27-17.

2. Raffl winners
Dave Hakstol has called Michael Raffl a big-bodied, straight-line forward, which is certainly not off the mark.

But from time to time, Raffl will show the deceptive skill side of his game.

He did it Thursday night to win the Flyers’ 6-5 affair over the Oilers in the final minute and a half of regulation for his second game-winner over the last three contests.

"Raf has this stutter step that's undercover speedy," Steve Mason said postgame Thursday (see story). "He used it in Nashville to get a big goal and then here tonight.

"It looks like he's going to stop fully up, but he finds another gear and he really adds another element to that line that brings physical play.

"He has that sneaky talent, too, that can make you pay."

Raffl is quietly making teams pay. The Flyers are 4-0-2 in games that he scores a goal. Despite missing eight games because of injury, the 28-year-old Austrian is on pace for around 20 goals.

That’s much-valued secondary scoring and complementary play.

3. Not so bright
Before reeling off seven straight wins, the Flyers were in a similar spot to which the Stars are in now.

Dallas, which finished 50-23-9 last season — best in the Western Conference — after starting 19-5-0, can’t find consistency through 28 games this season. The Stars have won back-to-back games just once thus far and goaltending has been an issue as Dallas is surrendering an NHL-worst 3.18 goals per game.

The Stars do not lack offensive firepower, however. Center Tyler Seguin is tied for second in the NHL with 29 points (10 goals, 19 assists), while linemate Jamie Benn isn’t far behind at 24 (eight goals, 16 assists).

Also, veteran forward Jason Spezza is coming off a three-point game (one goal, two assists) in Dallas’ 5-2 win over the Predators.

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: We’ve got to go Jakub Voracek after the winger’s one-goal, three-assist performance on Thursday night. Voracek has been an absolute monster on the seven-game winning streak, posting 11 points with three goals and eight assists for a plus-6 rating.

Stars: It’s hard not to say Seguin, a dynamic player who always gives the Flyers trouble. His 21 career points (nine goals, 12 assists) against the orange and black are his second most versus any team.

5. This and that
• Mason is on a career-best six-game winning streak in which he’s posted a 2.27 goals-against average and .931 save percentage. Since Nov. 12, Mason is 9-3-1 with a 2.34 goals-against average and .923 save percentage.

• Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen is a dreadful 1-10-3 lifetime against the Flyers with a 3.49 goals-against average and .891 save percentage, while backup Antti Niemi is 4-1-0 with 1.48 goals-against average and .947 save percentage.

• Dallas has won its last three meetings with the Flyers by a combined score of 7-3.

• The Stars have lost 11 of 15 on the road.

• Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov has four points (two goals, two assists) in his last four games.

Penn State fan surprised with Rose Bowl tickets in heartwarming video

Penn State fan surprised with Rose Bowl tickets in heartwarming video

It's been a long road back to relevance for the Penn State football program. 

The Nittany Lions surprised just about everyone this season by finishing 10-2, winning the Big Ten title and claiming a spot in the historic Rose Bowl against USC on Jan. 2. 

For one fan, the surprise season went one step further.

Per ESPN's Instagram account ...

But wait, there's more. 

Not only was he surprised with Rose Bowl tickets in what could be the most touching video of the year, but he even got a personal call from Penn State head coach James Franklin thanking him for his support. 

Not a bad way to close out 2016.