We return from an extended hiatus to recap the ‘highly anticipated’ NBA Christmas Day Games. The level of anticipation wasn’t all that high though, as a lot has changed since scheduling time thanks to key injuries and locker-room self destruction. Realistically, this ended up being an average night of games at best (and the big logo jerseys were god awful!), but we braved all of them to bring you our thoughts & observations from each game:
Game 1: The Chicago Bulls (w) 95 @ The Brooklyn Nets 78
This was supposed to be a playoff preview between projected Eastern Conference contenders. Then Derrick Rose went down again, Brooklyn never showed up to play this season and we got a matchup between the scrappy and talent starved vs the old & lazy. It’s specially sad for Bulls fans as just a few years ago, we actually looked forward to them on Christmas.
The Bulls can still be respectable on nights because of their strong defensive identity and ‘next man up’ approach to the game. The Nets, however, should consider moving back to New Jersey and down to the D-League .
Chicago’s offense is so putrid, that the DJ Augustin signing seems like a good move.
In an era where big men (specially aging & injury prone ones) were cutting weight to reduce the strain on their bodies (see Duncan, Tim), Brook Lopez decided to bulk up this summer. Good Call.
It’s to believe that a few seasons ago, we could actually compare Chris Paul and Deron Williams, let alone mention them in the same sentence. One off year is ok, but Williams has really fallen off, and may never anywhere close to a superstar guard again.
With nothing of much significance going on, Taj Gibson decided to put on a little show of his improving offensive game for anyone who actually bothered to tune in.
Game 2: The Oklahoma City Thunder (w) 123 @ The New York Knicks 94
This wasn’t much of a matchup to start with as the Knicks have been abysmal and the Thunder have looked at times like THE best team in the league. Add to that the fact that a twisted ankle denied us the customary Melo vs Durant matchup and this was another tiresome game to get through.
Watching these two teams on the same court is truly bizarre. They seem to be playing two completely different games at completely different speeds – god these Knicks look awful! Both New York teams look like they show up just to clock in to work, not to try to win or even break a sweat, but just to clock in and claim they didn’t forfeit. Forfeit would’ve been the kinder option though. The league should punish the city and make the two teams just play each other for each of their remaining games with eventual losing team’s front office getting fired and owner getting the team confiscated from him… These games would air in between late night infomercials as 2 minute highlights because that’s all they deserve.
While the Thunder took care of business effortlessly and had the game decided from the opening tip, Amar’e Stoudemire thought he’d try something new: playing some defense. Reggie Jackson quickly showed him what a bad idea it was.
Game 3: The Miami Heat (w) 101 @ The Los Angeles Lakers 95
No Lebron – Kobe matchup here. (Realistically their match ups have never really been all that memorable: they play different positions, guard each other only occasionally – just enough for video clips for promo trailers, and never really had matching or overlapping primes.)
What we did get was Lebron vs Swaggy P. And in its own weird way, it was pretty f*ckin’ awesome.
The Lakers’ pace and scrappiness has them as the reigning must-watch bad team. If only they’d trade Gasol, shut down Kobe for the season, and just commit to this for the rest of the year. Playing at 110 mph. The Resurrection of Xavier. Robert Sacre doing work down low. Nick Young competing for the title of ‘the best bad shot maker in the league’with his in-city rival Jamal Crawford. The Lake Show 2013. So much better than Earlsanity the 2012 version starring Dwight, Kobe, Nash, Pau, Metta. In conclusion, superteams suck!
Game 4: The Houston Rockets (w) 111 @ The San Antonio Spurs 98
The first real game of the night. The Spurs can play big at times, but not all that effectively against ‘true’ size. The Grizz exposed this 2011, and this season, Dwight & the Rockets have given them trouble. They struggled to score inside all night and most of their points seemed to be coming on tough shots. Very un-Spurs like – to Houston’s Credit.
When the Rockets are good, they’re really good. And once they start playing 48 minutes of D instead of just in 4th quarters, they could be unstoppable.
Dwight is starting to look spry again. Or maybe he just hated playing with Kobe, and it’s finally wearing off.
Manu had a vintage Manu game, but we get to see fewer ones each year. As Barkley says, you can’t beat time.
Every team likes having some outside shooting. The Rockets have it in excess.
The Rockets’ extra small lineup with Terrence jones at center was intriguing. There’s something very interesting about the lineup possibilities this roster presents.
Jeremy Lin, a year removed from the unfair expectations of Linsanity, is playing some very solid PG minutes for Houston. Consistent shooting and playmaking and some pretty good defense on Tony Parker tonight.
James Harden takes over in the 4th. Cold Blooded!
He needs to thank Sam Presti. I still like the Harden trade. He wouldn’t have reached his semi-superstar status had he stayed there. And the OKC offense and bench would not have evolved the way it has either. But with respect to Harden, I do think this is his ceiling. Part of his success is the fact that he’s playing in the perfect system. Eventually we’re seeing that repeatedly this season with teams like Portland & Indiana vs the New York Teams: The pieces have to fit!
It would be interesting to see what additional pieces Houston can add in exchange for Asik. I do know what I’d love to see that may never ever ever happen: Kevin Love in a Houston jersey! Is there a better player/system fit in the league right now. Come on Mr. Morey. MAKE IT HAPPEN!
Game 5: The LA Clippers 103 @ The Golden State Warriors 105 (w)
The only home win of the night and definitely a game that matched up to the billing. The Chris Paul – Steph Curry matchup was one sided for the most part but this is definitely a rivalry in the making. Ejections. Runs. Last Minute Shots. Different players stepping up. This had it all. Big win for the Dubs though it could really have gone either way.
David Lee is ridiculously solid (except on D): he’s the epitome of a low maintainance all-star. Goes about his business every game without forcing anything and doing most his work as the clean up man and still ends up with 20 & 10.
Andrew Bogut explicitly displayed the ‘intangibles’ & ‘toughness’ he brings to the team. He gives them a mean streak that will translate well come playoff time.
Steph Curry really doesn’t like Christmas games. By the time he finally got going (2 & 3/4 christmas games in), I’m sure he thought the calendar date had flipped to the 26th. Big 4th Q though and a mini but exciting Paul vs Curry snippet.
Blake Griffin has started playing in the post and even doing a bit of damage, but he still doesn’t really look all that comfortable or in control down there.
Jamal Crawford just makes shots. Tough, tough shots.Thats what he does. And they all look effortless. There’s little else to his game, but it’s enough to keep us watching.
Mark Jackson’s been all praises for Klay Thompson’s defensive game all season. Today he gave us some prime evidence.
After that block it looked like CP was going to murder the baseline official. The ref was too scared to even T him up. Chris Paul is an angry little man & it’s awesome. Pound for Pound, he has to be the scariest player in the league.