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Elias Says: Dec. 17, 2017

Stafford efficient once again, helping Lions tame Bears

The Lions improved their postseason chances by defeating the Bears, 20–10, and upping their record to 8–6. Including Saturday’s victory, Detroit has won nine of its last 10 meetings with Chicago, marking just the second instance in franchise history that the Lions notched nine wins in a 10-game span against the Bears. The Lions won 11 of 12 matchups versus the Bears from 1968 to 1973.

Matthew Stafford completed 25 of 33 passes versus Chicago, including two touchdown throws, to mark his third consecutive game with a completion percentage of 75 percent or better. The only other quarterback in 2017 to complete at least 75 of his passes in three consecutive games was Alex Smith, who had a three-game streak of that kind to start the season. Only one Lions player compiled a single-season streak of more than three games with a completion percentage of 75 percent or better, though a grain of salt might be necessary to digest it. Greg Landry completed at least 75 percent of his passes in four consecutive games for Detroit in 1970, but here’s the fine print: Landry came off the bench for all four of those contests and attempted just 18 total passes over that span, going 3-for-4, 5-for-5, 1-for-1, and 6-for-8. In six starts later that year, Landry threw more often but less accurately, never topping 70 percent again.

Bears offense was Slay-ed in second half

Lions cornerback Darius Slay picked off Mitchell Trubisky’s first pass of the second half, leading to a short field for the Lions who crossed the goal line 10 plays later for their final touchdown. Slay then finished off the Bears by intercepting Trubisky’s last pass of the day in the final minute of the fourth quarter. Slay, who also intercepted two passes by Matt Ryan in Week Three, is up to seven interceptions for the season after picking off six passes in his first four NFL seasons. He’s the third player to pick off multiple passes in more than one game this season, joining the Titans’ Kevin Byard and Dolphins’ Xavien Howard, and he’s the first to achieve that feat for the Lions since Dre’ Bly had two such games in 2004.

LeBron passes Larry Legend with latest triple-double

LeBron James led the Cavaliers with 29 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists in their win over the Jazz on Saturday. James has led his team outright – i.e. no ties – in points, rebounds, and assists 110 times in his career, with his team winning 70 of those contests. Since James’s rookie season of 2003–04, the only player with even half as many games of that kind is Russell Westbrook, who has been the Thunder’s outright leader in points, rebounds, and assists 57 times.

Including Saturday’s effort, James now has 60 triple-doubles in his career, sixth-most all time and one more than NBA legend Larry Bird. The Cavaliers are 20–1, including 17 wins in a row, in James’s 21 triple-doubles in regulation-length games in Cleveland while playing for the Cavs (the lone loss was to the Rockets in 2008). James has recorded at least one triple-double in the regular season against 26 of the NBA’s 30 teams, including two against the Cavs. And of the four remaining teams, James produced a postseason triple-double against three: the Mavericks, Spurs, and Thunder. The only NBA team that James has never produced a triple-double against in the regular season or postseason is the Timberwolves. Although James is 22–5 versus Minnesota all-time, including 21 wins in his last 22 games, he has never reached double-digits in three categories in any of those contests. James finished two rebounds shy of doing so in both of Cleveland’s two matchups with the T-Wolves last season.

Almost as impressive as James’s triple-double on Saturday, which was his third in the last four games, was his prowess at the free-throw line. James finished 10-for-10 from the charity stripe, his most makes without a miss since going 12-for-12 on foul shots on Nov. 5, 2014, a road loss against the Jazz.

Rockets win again, keeping Paul perfect

The Rockets weathered a late rally by the Bucks to clinch their 13th consecutive victory. Houston also improved to 14–0 this season in games that Chris Paul has played. It’s a wonderful first impression to be sure, although Paul still has a ways to go if he wants to run down the NBA record for consecutive wins to open a tenure with a new team.

Two players celebrated victory in their first 23 games with a new team, and, coincidentally, both achieved that feat in the same season. In the 1971–72 season, the Bucks won the first 23 games with Barry Nelson in the lineup, and the Lakers did the same when John Trapp played. Although that would end up as Nelson’s lone season in the NBA, Milwaukee won 27 of 28 games in which he participated, giving him a lifetime winning percentage of 96.4 percent, the highest for any player with at least 10 games played in the NBA. And as for Trapp? He was on the court for the final minute of the Lakers’ championship-clinching win over the Knicks in the 1972 NBA Finals.

Where would Spurs be without Ginobili?

With the score tied in the final seconds of the fourth quarter at AT&T Center, Manu Ginobili darted through the Mavericks defense and scored with 3.1 seconds remaining, giving the Spurs their final margin of victory in a 98–96 win. That’s the second time in the last nine days that Ginobili made a field goal to put the Spurs ahead in the final five seconds of the fourth quarter or overtime; he also hit a tiebreaking three-pointer with 5.0 seconds remaining in regulation to finish off a win over the Celtics on December 8.

Ginobili had just one other regular season game since the start of the 2011–12 season in which he made a go-ahead field goal in the last five seconds of the fourth quarter or overtime. And in that contest on Jan. 7, 2014, he produced not one but two go-ahead shots of that kind. Similar to Saturday’s contest, Ginobili broke a 96–96 tie with a layup near the end of the fourth quarter, though Mike Conley tied the game on the Grizzlies’ next possession to send the game to overtime. Ginobili then relived his heroics in the extra period, scoring from close range with 1.8 seconds left to break another tie and finally put away Memphis.

Kyrie far atop Celtics leaderboard

Kyrie Irving’s 20 points in the Celtics’ victory over the Grizzlies on Saturday brought his season total to 726 points in 30 games. No player had ever topped 650 points in his first 30 games for Boston, much less 700. The only other active players to score at least 700 points in their first 30 games for their current teams were DeMarcus Cousins (787 with the Pelicans), James Harden (783 with the Rockets), and Kevin Durant (770 with the Warriors).

Carmelo as icy as a New York winter

Carmelo Anthony struggled with his shot in his return to Madison Square Garden, helping the Knicks prevail over the Thunder, 111–96. Anthony made five of his first 10 field-goal attempts before going ice cold, missing his final eight shots from the floor. Anthony played 16:50 in the second half without scoring a point, marking just the second time in the last six seasons that Anthony finished either half of a game with at least 15 minutes played and zero points. He went scoreless in 16:18 in the second half for the Knicks on Nov. 27, 2015 in a loss against the Heat at MSG.

Lillard assists in Blazers’ victory

The Blazers finished their East Coast road trip with three wins in four days, capped with a 93–91 victory over the Hornets in Charlotte on Saturday. Damian Lillard scored 18 points and produced 11 of the team’s 19 assists. Saturday’s game marked the fifth time this season that a player totaled 10 or more assists in a game in which his team finished with fewer than 20 assists. Russell Westbrook did that twice earlier this month, while J.J. Barea and Spencer Dinwiddie each did so once in October. This was the fourth such game in Lillard’s career, tied with Terry Porter and Rod Strickland for the most games of that kind in franchise history.

Another OT winner for Ovechkin

Alex Ovechkin’s overtime goal earned the Washington Capitals a 3–2 win against the Ducks on Saturday. It was Ovechkin’s 21st career regular-season overtime goal (extending his own NHL record) and his second OT goal this season. Ovechkin has scored at least two overtime goals in nine of his 13 seasons in the NHL. No other player in NHL history has more than four seasons with multiple overtime goals.

Lightning and Avalanche wake up for scoring fest

The Lightning beat the Avalanche in Colorado, 6–5, even though the first goal of the game wasn’t scored until the 9:11 mark of the second period. This was the first NHL game in which 11 or more goals were scored after a goalless first period since Jan. 31, 2013, when the Sabres won 7–4 at Boston.

Career-best for Landeskog in losing effort

Gabriel Landeskog set a career high with five points in Saturday’s game in Denver, scoring the Avs’ first three goals and then assisting on a pair of goals by Nathan MacKinnon. This was only the second time since the Quebec Nordiques moved to Colorado in 1995 that an Avs player tallied five points or more in one game while recording a point on every one of the team’s goals. Alex Tanguay recorded two goals and three assists in a 5–5 tie versus the Canucks on March 3, 2004.

Henrik on ascent for wins throne versus Bruins

Henrik Lundqvist made 33 saves for the Rangers as they extended their winning streak against the Bruins to seven games with a 3–2 overtime victory in Boston on Saturday. Lundqvist has been in goal for six of those seven consecutive Rangers wins versus the Bruins, allowing only one or two goals in each game. With a 27–12–2 record in his 41 career regular-season games against Boston, Lundqvist has tied Ryan Miller for the second-most wins by a goaltender versus the Bruins in the NHL’s expansion era (1967–68 to date), behind Patrick Roy (38 wins).

Late game-winner for Penguins

Olli Maatta’s tiebreaking goal at the 19:45 mark of the third period was the game-winning goal for the Penguins in their 4–2 victory against the Coyotes in Glendale. It was the latest go-ahead goal in regulation time in an NHL game this season and the latest such goal for the Penguins since April 5, 2007, when Max Talbot scored at 19:50 of the third period to beat the Senators in Ottawa.

Nugent-Hopkins bags first shorty

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored the first shorthanded goal of his NHL career in the Oilers’ 3–2 win at Minnesota. Entering play on Saturday, only three of the 21 players who had scored 100 or more goals for Edmonton in its NHL history had not produced a shorthanded goal for the Oilers: Craig Simpson (185 goals), Taylor Hall (132) and Nugent-Hopkins (107).

A new record for Blues netminders

Carter Hutton set a record for saves by a Blues goaltender in a shutout when he stopped all 48 shots on goal against him in a 2–0 victory over the Jets on Saturday. He broke the old team mark of 47 saves by Chris Mason in a 1–0 shootout win at Nashville on Nov. 25, 2008. Hutton’s 48 saves were the most any NHL goaltender recorded in a shutout since Jan. 6, 2015, when Colorado’s Semyon Varlamov stopped 54 shots in a 2–0 win at Chicago.

Lee moves quickly to score 20

Anders Lee scored his 20th goal of the season for the Islanders in their overtime win against the Kings in Brooklyn on Saturday. Lee reached the 20-goal plateau in the Isles’ 33rd game, matching John Tavares in 2012–13 for fewest team games that any Islanders player has needed to attain that mark over the last 20 seasons. The last Islanders player to get to 20 goals in one season before the team’s 33rd game was Zigmund Palffy in 1996–97 (29 games).

A Classic shutout for Anderson

Senators goaltender Craig Anderson recorded his second shutout of the season with a 3–0 win outdoors against the Canadiens in the NHL 100 Classic at Lansdowne Park in Ottawa. It was the 40th career shutout for Anderson, an Illinois native, tying Ryan Miller for the second-most shutouts among active U.S.-born goaltenders, behind Jonathan Quick with 46. Anderson’s shutout was the fourth in a regular-season NHL game played outdoors. The others were by Calgary’s Miikka Kiprusoff (Feb. 2011 vs. Montreal), Anaheim’s Jonas Hiller (Jan. 2014 at Los Angeles) and Edmonton’s Cam Talbot (Oct. 2016 at Winnipeg).

Gostisbehere handles all the scoring duties for Flyers

Shayne Gostisbehere scored both goals for the Flyers in their 2–1 overtime victory against the Stars on Saturday. Gostisbehere is the third defenseman in Flyers history to score two goals in a regular-season game, including an overtime goal. Joni Pitkanen did that twice, both in the 2005–06 season (Nov. 8 vs. Boston, Jan. 30 at Rangers), and Michael Del Zotto was the last to do so before Gostisbehere (Jan. 7, 2016 at Minnesota).

Defense wins two days in a row for Hurricanes

Defenseman Noah Hanifin’s second-period goal was the game-winner for the Hurricanes in their 2–1 victory against the Blue Jackets on Saturday. Twenty-four hours earlier, defenseman Jaccob Slavin’s overtime goal earned Carolina a 5–4 win at Buffalo. Over the last six seasons, the only other time the Hurricanes won two consecutive games with defensemen tallying the winning goal in each game was Oct. 27–29, 2015, in victories against the Red Wings and Islanders. Ron Hainsey scored the winning goal in both games.