Post Up: Christmas Lights
Rockets, Heat, Warriors shine brightest on League’s big day
by Brett Weisband | @weisband
Bulls (11-16) 95, Nets (9-19) 78
The Nets nightmare season, as Deron Williams called it after this game, continued as Brooklyn got blown out at home on the League’s marquee day. Jimmy Butler scored six points in a 12-0 Bulls run in the third quarter, pushing Chicago to a lead they never came close to giving up. Butler finished with 15 points, five rebounds and four assists after missing the Bulls’ previous game with an ankle injury, and Taj Gibson led Chicago in scoring with 20 points along with eight rebounds and two blocks.
Coming into the season, this figured to be a marquee matchup. Of course, both teams have been wracked by injury with the Nets struggles going beyond that. The Bulls managed to shake off the absence of Luol Deng in this one, while the Nets continued to falter with pieces out of the lineup.
The Nets were down 52-50 halfway through the third quarter, but fell behind by 18 by the end of the frame. Brooklyn missed eight straight field goal attempts at the Bulls pulled away. After Chicago’s run, the Nets never got closer than the final margin of 17. The healthy-for-now Williams led Brooklyn with 18, along with four assists, while second-year forward Mirza Teletovic netted an efficient 17 on 7-11 shooting.
Thunder (23-5) 123, Knicks (9-19) 94
Oklahoma City came into the world’s most famous arena and put on a show, much to the dismay of the New York faithful. The Knicks were thoroughly embarrassed by the Thunder, trailing by as many as 31 and being down by double digits from a minute into the second quarter until the final buzzer. They were greeted by boos and, even worse, apathetic silence as OKC ran away with it. Russell Westbrook stuffed his stocking with a triple double, going for 14 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists, reaching the achievement midway through the third quarter. Kevin Durant was the top scorer, dropping 29 along with seven boards and six assists for the Thunder.
The Knicks can’t catch a break. After finally getting a full lineup on the floor, New York had to go without Carmelo Anthony (sprained ankle) and Raymond Felton (groin) on the big stage. While the Knicks’ defense wasn’t good with those two out, the defense was even worse, despite Chandler’s presence. New York allowed the Thunder to shoot 53.6 percent from the field and a blistering 54.2 percent from long range (13-24).
The Knicks got their best individual efforts off the bench, with Amar’e Stoudemire scoring a season-high 22 in 27 minutes (although he did post a -18 plus-minus rating) and Tim Hardaway Jr. netting 21. OKC’s star duo got support from Serge Ibaka, who had 24 on 10-14 shooting, and Reggie Jackson, who had 18 off the bench.
Heat (22-6) 101, Lakers (13-16) 95
It took until the third game of the day, but fans finally got an entertaining Christmas Day game. Despite being out-manned talent-wise, the Lakers stayed in the game thanks to their shooting from beyond the arc, knocking down 14 of their whopping 36 attempts, but in the end the Heat’s Big Three carried Miami to victory. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh paced Miami with 23 points apiece in the win, their fifth straight over LA on Christmas Day.
This is yet another game that looked much more appealing when the schedule was released. Thanks to Kobe’s “1225” Twitter avatar, there was preseason buzz that he’d make his comeback in this game. Sadly for all fans, Bryant is sidelined yet again with a fractured knee. In his absence, Nick Young tried his hand stepping up on the big stage. Swaggy P scored 20 off the bench in the loss, at times going shot-for-shot with LeBron James (or, at least trying to).
Miami went up by seven late in the third quarter thanks to some sharp shooting from Bosh, but Young hit a three to end the quarter and Xavier Henry (14 points off the bench) scored three quick buckets to start the fourth as the Lakers pulled ahead. Miami seized the lead back, going hard to the basket and generating open three-point looks to retake the lead.
Bosh shook off an 0-6 start from the field and finished 9-12 overall, chipping in 11 boards as well. He did much of his damage in the third, coming out of halftime to drop 11 in the quarter. LeBron had a relatively pedestrian stat line, shooting “only” 50 percent (7-14) for his 19 points and eight rebounds, but he had the loudest play of the day with a spectacular off-the-backboard alley oop from Wade.
Rockets (19-11) 111, Spurs (22-7) 98
The Rockets were on full-blast in San Antonio, jumping on the Spurs early. Houston put up 40 points in the first quarter and, when the Spurs got it close late in the game, James Harden slammed the door shut. After missing the two previous games with an ankle injury and coming into the night as a game-time decision, Harden scored 16 of his 28 points in the fourth, including 11 straight for Houston to stretch the lead to double digits and seal the victory.
Despite falling behind big early, the Spurs battled back throughout the game. San Antonio won the both of the middle two quarters, holding the Rockets under a point per possession over that stretch. Still, the league’s no. 2 defense got torched in this one, allowing 52.3 percent shooting from the field, 12-24 shooting from three and giving up a 119.4 offensive rating.
Manu Ginobili helped keep the Spurs in the game, keeping his bounce-back year going with 22 points on 8-17 shooting. Tim Duncan posted a double double (11 and 14) and blocked six shots, but was mostly a non-factor on the offensive end. Tony Parker had a silent night, scoring just six points.
Even before Harden went off, the Rockets presented plenty of problems for the Spurs. Dwight Howard terrorized them on the glass, going for 20 rebounds as well as 15 points. Chandler Parsons was big early and finished with 21 points (8-14 overall, 5-9 from three), six rebounds and six assists. Terrence Jones, looking more and more like the stretch power forward Houston needs, posted a double double with 21 and 14.
Warriors (17-13) 105, Clippers (20-11) 103
The final game of Christmas Day proved to be the best, but Christmas cheer was nowhere to be found in Oakland as things got heated between two rivals. Draymond Green was ejected for the Warriors after a flagrant elbow to the neck of Blake Griffin, and Griffin was ejected shortly after when he got into it with Andrew Bogut. The game itself came down to the final minutes; Steph Curry got hot to score seven points in the final three minutes, and Chris Paul missed two layups to tie the game in the final 30 seconds as the Warriors escaped.
The intensity of the matchup was evident in the effort from both sides, as there were some great individual efforts on display. Despite his late misses, CP3 finished with 26 points and 11 assists, while Blake posted a 20-14 double double, along with five assists, before getting tossed. Curry put up a double double as well, overcoming his tough shooting night (5-17) to post 15 and 11. David Lee and Klay Thompson tied for the Warriors’ team lead with 23 points each, with Lee completing another double double with 13 boards, while Thompson swatted away Paul’s final layup attempt to help seal the victory.
Both teams had harsh words for the other post-game, with Griffin calling the Warriors “cowardly” and Bogut announcing that the Warriors “don’t like them.” These teams don’t square off again until Jan. 30, but you can bet both of them have that day circled on their calendars.