This Christmas we saw a plethora of high quality NBA match-ups. Due to the increased coverage and pressure of these Christmas games, many teams stepped up to the stage with several upsets occurring. This year’s Christmas day slate of games showed us how these potential playoff match-ups might shape up.
Boston Celtics vs Toronto Raptors
The first game of Christmas day was a good one with Boston maintaining their 2nd seed in the East by defeating Toronto. This win for the Celtics was accomplished through consistent 3-point shooting from Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker.
Brown stepped up big this game scoring 30 points while shooting 5-7 from 3. The 23-year old small forward iced the game and secured the win for the Celtics in the second half by scoring 16 points in the 3rd quarter alone. While the Raptors led the game in both steals and blocks, they were not able to keep up with Boston due to a lack of 3-point scoring.
Philadelphia 76ers vs Milwaukee Bucks
The second game of Christmas day came as a big shock as the 76ers dominated the then 27-4 Bucks the entire game. The 76ers found efficient scoring in Joel Embiid, 31 points with 11 rebounds, and Tobias Harris, 22 points while shooting 5-7 from 3.
In addition to offense, one of the biggest factors for the 76ers’ upset was their ability to defend and lock down reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. Due to strong post defense from Embiid, Giannis was held to only 18 points while shooting 29.6 FG% (he averages almost 31 PPG).
With Giannis locked down for the majority of the game, the Bucks allowed Khris Middleton to carry their offensive load scoring 31 points and shooting 55.6% from 3. However, this was not enough for the Bucks to keep up with the 76ers.
As both of these teams are ranked in the top 4 in the Eastern Conference, this match-up shows a potential playoff collision as well as weaknesses for the Bucks in a playoff series with Philadelphia.
Houston Rockets vs Golden State Warriors
One of the biggest upsets on Christmas day was the 7-24 Warriors beating the 21-9 Rockets. With no Steph Curry or Klay Thompson, everyone on the Warriors needed to step up in order to pull off the upset. This happened for the Warriors as their bench outscored Houston’s bench 26-15.
In addition, Damion Lee and D’Angelo Russell were able to carry the offensive load for the Warriors, scoring 22 and 20 points (respectively).
While Russell Westbrook scored 30 and James Harden scored 24, the Rockets still lacked offensive consistency as Westbrook shot 0-8 from 3 and multiple other players shot poorly from the field. Although this was an embarrassing loss for the Rockets, they will remain in the playoff picture as they still have one of the best lineups in the league.
Los Angeles Lakers vs Los Angeles Clippers
The Lakers vs Clippers game was a battle for Los Angeles and probably one of the best Christmas Day games. This game was back and forth for the majority of the first half, but turned into a come-from-behind victory for the Clippers who were down 51-63 at the beginning of the second half.
Kawhi Leonard played a big role in this comeback scoring 35 points with 12 rebounds and shooting 5-7 from 3. Additionally, Patrick Beverley iced this game with a clutch block on a Lebron James shot on the Lakers’ final play. While the Clippers ended up on top, both of these teams are two of the best in the league and should both make it far this season.
Denver Nuggets vs New Orleans Pelicans
The final game of Christmas day ended in another big upset with the 8-23 Pelicans beating the 21-8 Nuggets. This game was close for the majority of its duration, but the Pelicans were able to break away during the 4th quarter.
While the Pelicans had 6 more turnovers than the Nuggets, they were able to stay competitive with more consistent scoring. Brandon Ingram had a monster game with 31 points and 7 rebounds, while shooting 7-9 from 3.
Additionally, Josh Hart and Jrue Holiday greatly contributed to the Pelicans’ victory with Hart putting up 16 points shooting 4-5 from 3 and 9 rebounds, and Holiday putting up 20 points along with 8 assists and 6 steals.
While the Nuggets were able to keep up with the Pelicans, their defense was not able to stop the Pelicans’ late game 3-pointers, which ultimately sealed their loss.