by Anton Kudriavtsev/@TheDiesel
Kicking off the first of five prime-time games, the Knicks threw on some throwback jerseys and played some throwback defense in the fourth quarter to get a win over the Bulls in Madison Square Garden. Shooting until your clip is empty was a good idea if you play for New York, as the team shot 53% from the field including an astounding 55% from three-point land. Amar’e had 20 points, 10 rebounds, and an impressive 6 blocks while Raymond Felton added 20 points, 12 assists, and 5 steals. The Knicks turned up the defense in the 4th quarter, smothering Chicago and only allowing two baskets in the first 10 minutes of play as Rose (25 points, 8 assists) struggled to convert some lay-ups and get to the line. Carlos Boozer played well (26 points and 19 rebounds), but when Booz and his Santa-bushy eyebrows are getting to the line more than your franchise player, you have a problem. Regardless of whether Rose should get more foul calls at the rim, some consistency couldn’t hurt at the line. Santa recommends working on executing plays out of double teams and getting to the line to have a happier holiday season.
After opening their early Christmas present in the form of the league’s biggest trade this year, the Magic continued their winning ways as they snapped the Celtics’ 14-game winning streak. The lack of personnel for the Celtics (without Rondo this game) finally caught up with them as they couldn’t get stops down the stretch and didn’t execute on the offensive end. A close game down the stretch, oversized pet hamster Jameer Nelson hit a three before J.J. Redick mocked Paul Pierce by doing a version of his step-back jumper to seal the game for the Magic. Dwight was in foul trouble for most of this game, and flopped to make Shaq foul out but Brandon Bass also had 21 points while the Big Turk added 16 points and 4 assists as he starts to settle back into the pizza scene in Orlando. For Boston, Garnett led with 22 points but Nate Robinson’s thirst for contested three-pointers hurt the team in the end. I was surprised to see Nate playing at all, he must have been exhausted from staying up all night and building toys along with the other elves.
Unless it’s pre-season or early April, this was a statement game and the Heat used the opportunity to make their statement in a blowout win over the Lakers. I was watching the game at a sports bar, when “real” NBA fans asked me who was on the Heat besides the Big 3, I was cut off as I started to list the players with a simple statement: “Yeah, but those three are all you need, right?”. It was hard to argue this (at least to causal fans), as Miami’s Big 3 have been scoring over 60% of the team’s total points and their outstanding play continued today with LeBron smearing his talents into his third triple double of the season with 27 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists while Wade added 18 and dished six. Despite looking like a weak deer in Sarah Palin’s rifle scope, Chris Bosh quickly quieted critics with a strong game on the biggest stage this season, posting up 24 points and 13 rebounds as he exposed Gasol’s softness, got on the glass and even had the dunk of the game. Kobe had 17 points but on 16 shots, his Lakers looking flat and simply out-executed in half-court sets. LeBron and Kobe had a dicey war of words late in the game, if you read their lips you can clearly see each arguing over whose signature shoe is uglier. This win what Pat Riley was thinking about when he applied the BP oil spill residue into his hair before his meeting with LeBron: a team with premier perimeter defensive ability and multiple offensive options. While unconventional, the formula is finally starting to show signs of success. For my money (maybe after some better games against the Celtics), contenders need to start fearing the Heat a little bit more.
Durant showed why he’s the league’s leading scorer by dropping a season-high 44 points and leading his Thunder over the Nuggets. KD was a ridiculous 14-of-20 from the field, including 21 points in the third quarter alone and 4-of-7 from 3-point range. The Durantula had 40 points after three quarters but didn’t gun to beat his career-high 47 points, passing out of the double teams Denver threw at him to maintain the flow of the game for his team. The Thunder pushed their lead into double digits with just under 9 minutes to play and the Melo-less Nuggets didn’t get closer the rest of the game. Chauncey Billups led the Nuggets with 30 points and Nene added 21 while James Harden caught some of Durant’s sparks to score 21 points off the bench for Oklahoma City. It’s a shame Carmelo didn’t play, as this would likely have been a 50-point shootout for both stars.
The final Christmas day game saw Monta Ellis scoring 39 points and dishing 7 assists for the Warriors in a win over the Blazers. Portland collapsed in the 4th quarter, coughing up a six-point lead as the Warriors scored 11 straight points and earned the win. David Lee added 21 points while Dorell Wright (16 points) including a momentum-shifting dunk for Golden State in their late rally. Wes Matthews led the Blazers with 25 points while Nicolas Batum added 18 points and 10 rebounds off the bench. Ellis is my undisputed favourite scorer, his shots ridiculous-looking but smooth, going down easy like a chaser.
“Check My $tats” of the night: LeBron James – 27 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists, 4 steals. The creator of the category re-claims his statistical throne.
Seeing Dwight take 6 hours to prepare himself at the line reminded me of this free throw.
I’m out like three-peats.