- The Boston Celtics Can Go Far
The protagonist of this Celtics game ended up being Jaylen Brown. The 23-year-old is fresh off of a huge extension. and he had 30 points, six rebounds and four assists, while shooting an absurd 10 of 13 from the floor to prove the critics of his extension wrong. The game was marketed as Jaylen Brown’s breakout, but the team was not carried by Jaylen Brown.
The Celtics had six players in double figures including 22 points from Kemba Walker, a well rounded 14 points, six assists, and five rebounds from Gordon Hayward, and even a double-double from Enes Kanter against a Toronto Raptors team that should find itself in the postseason.
2. 76ers Are Unbeatable at Home
When things are bad in Philadelphia, the fans can be borderline abusive, but when their teams are successful, the fans are some of the best in sports. The Philly fans have made the 76ers the best home court team in the NBA, and the success continued on Christmas.
Philadelphia raced out to an early start in front of their fans leading by more than 20 at the half and ending up beating Milwaukee by 12. The 76ers shut down defending MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo as he shot below 30 percent from the field and 0-7 on three pointers.
3. Rockets Are Referee Reliant
James Harden and the Rockets often get criticized for their boring, yet effective style of basketball. Harden has made getting fouled an art and it helps fluctuate his borderline insane scoring numbers. Against the Warriors on Sunday, the referees were not giving Harden and the Rockets calls they usually get, and the team struggled.
Russell Westbrook had an inefficient double-double and struggled along with just about everyone else on the Rockets rotation except for Harden. James Harden only had one attempt from the free throw line and the Rockets had only 16 as a team, while the Warriors shot 28. The Rockets are only 8-5 when Harden has 10 or fewer attempts from the line.
4. The King Has Been Dethroned
As tempted as I am to use this space to make fun of Kyle Kuzma’s outfit before the game, I’ll keep this to basketball.
This game ended up coming down to the wire and was decided on a Patrick Beverley block that deflected off Lebron James on it’s way out of bounds. The criticism of Lebron after the game was excessive as James is still the greatest player of my lifetime and is still playing at a phenomenal level, but it is becoming increasingly clear that Kawhi Leonard has surpassed James and is the best player in Los Angeles.
Leonard led the Clippers in points and rebounds earning a 35 point, 12 rebound and five assist outing in addition to his +/- of +13. Meanwhile, James had 23 points and was a rebound shy of a triple double, but was inefficient shooting the ball. In a night where every Clipper other than Kawhi shot 4 of 18 from beyond the arc, the Klaw still willed his team to victory.
5. Jamal Murray Essential to Nuggets Success
The Nuggets walked into Christmas day expecting a win against a 9-23 Pelicans team, but instead they walked out losers after J.J. Redick had a ridiculous end to the first half to swing momentum. More concerning for the Nuggets once again is Jamal Murray. Murray is one of the best scorers in the NBA, but is also one of the least consistent scorers in the league.
Murray’s athleticism and shot creating ability gives him all-star potential, but there are too many games like Christmas where he was held to eight points on 2 of 10 shooting.
In Nuggets wins this season, Murray averages 19.1 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists, while shooting 44.7 percent from the field and 36.6 percent from three.
In games the Nuggets lose, Murray’s stats drop to 14.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists, while shooting 42.6 percent from the field and an atrocious 17.2 percent from beyond the arc. Murray’s consistency can carry the Nuggets to the next level, but his inconsistency will lead to early exits in the playoffs for years to come.