For a lot of sports fans around the league, Christmas Day is when the “real” NBA season begins. A lot of it has to do with the fact that NFL season is, unfortunately, winding down and more of the focus is shifted towards the Association. Another reason the NBA gets so much attention on the 25th of December is because the entire day is dedicated to showcasing the best teams around the league, going head to head in some of the best basketball that the league has to offer. Unfortunately for the NBA, most of yesterday’s games didn’t include a few of it’s best teams and didn’t provide it’s best product. Luck wasn’t on David Stern’s side. It’s not his fault that some of the biggest teams in the biggest markets are dealing with franchise-level injuries. The game schedules were put into place before the season began and no one thought that at this point of the season, the Nets, Bulls, Knicks and Lakers would ALL be dealing with key injuries. At the same time, how were the Pacers not included in yesterday’s festivities? Portland (tied atop the west) was also missing but no one really expected, before the season, that they’d be among the league’s elite. Not the same for Indiana, the Heat’s biggest obstacle for a fourth straight Finals appearance and tied for the best record in the league. Most people thought that Indiana would continue to battle for the eastern conference’s top position during the regular season and once the postseason began. So, once again, I’ll wonder: why weren’t they included?
Let’s get to some of the teams that actually played in yesterday’s game. Like the past few couple of seasons, the NBA was featuring a quintuple-header. I actually felt bad for the NBA countdown crew (ESPN and ABC) because they were basically dealing with a 13 hour work day on Christmas Day. And to boot, getting up early for a Nets-Bulls game is not something that’s really worth doing. Are the Nets, as a team and franchise, in some serious trouble heading into the future? I’m not talking about just this season. The next few years and beyond look bleak for the Nets, no draft picks while being locked into some pretty big deals. While the Bulls are ugly to watch without Rose, at least Chicago showed some heart in their victory over the Nets yesterday. Not showing heart were Moe’s Knicks. New York got pounded by the Thunder yesterday, led by their duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. I’ll sum up how easy it was for Oklahoma City: Durant scored 29 points on 10-for-16 shooting seemingly without sweating and Westbrook had a triple double halfway through the 3rd quarter. Oh yeah, the Kicks also suffered the worst defeat by any home team on Christmas Day. Let’s shift over to the west coast, where LeBron and co were visiting a depleted Lakers team. Surprisingly enough this game didn’t keep the trend of complete blowouts for the day. The Heat looked in control for most of the game, especially halfway through the second quarter and after but the Lakers hung around and almost stole the game. After giving up the lead in the 4th, Miami re-gained composure and closed out the game. Still, lots of a props to a scrappy Lakers team who played well enough to make this an entertaining game worth tuning in to.
The best was saved for last as the quality of basketball got better as the day went on. The Rockets were in San Antonio (hosting their first Christmas Day game) against the Spurs in a good ole fashioned Texas shootout. Normally Houston is sort of a weird team but they played very sound and balanced basketball. It’s something that the Spurs set the bar doing so but during yesterday’s game, the Rockets raced out to a big lead, forcing the Spurs to play catch up the entire game. San Antonio managed to get within striking distance a couple of times. That was, until James Harden took over in the 4th quarter. Harden dropped 16th in the final quarter as he led the Rockets to a big win over their in-state rival. The most entertaining game of the night came late in the day when the Clippers visited the Warriors. A physical contest that included two ejections (Blake Griffin and Draymond Green), two technical fouls, two flagrant fouls and shoving even after the final buzzer went off. The Warriors won the game after a last second heave by the Clippers was short but up until that moment, it was either team’s game. When your coaching staff has to separate the sides after the game is over, there’s definitely some bad blood. I’m already looking forward to when these two teams go at against because they provide a good basketball product with some of that old school (pictured above) roughness.
One a side note: I’m with Dirk on this one when it comes to the special edition uniforms. Not a fan of the sleeves or the giant logos on the chest.