NBA Christmas Day: Tatum drops 41 points in Celtics win; The Grizz Warriors are on the move
The holidays are here and there are five must-see matchups on the NBA schedule – and our panel of reporters is covering every second!
Tune in on Christmas Day as Yaron Weitzman, Ric Bucher and Melissa Rohlin share their best performances from each primetime competition.
Philadelphia 76ers 119, New York Knicks 112
Current rating: The Sixers are now 20-12 and currently on an eight-game winning streak. The Knicks are now 18-16 and have lost 3 in a row.
Key statistics: Joel Embiid continued to claim the MVP position. He leads the league in scoring and scored 35 in Sunday’s win.
Key Takeaways: The story of this game – before and after – was James Harden. An hour before tipoff, we reported that Harden was “seriously considering a return to the Houston Rockets in July free agency,” courtesy of ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Later in the game, Harden paced the Knicks with 29 points and 13 assists as they helped the 76ers to a 119-112 victory at Madison Square Garden. The win was the Sixers’ eighth in a row, and it showed what the team has in store when pairing Harden with Embiid. Two dominant players (Embiid had 35 points on 12-for-22 shooting), they formed an unbeatable combo at their best. The question, of course, will always be whether the stars care about each other and want to work with each other. Games like this show what it looks like when they do. As reports emerged this morning, it is understandable why you remain suspicious. — Yaron Weitzmann
Dallas Mavericks 124, Los Angeles Lakers 115
Current rating: Los Angeles and Dallas have been disappointing this season. The Lakers are 13-20 and have now lost four in a row. The Mavs are now 18-16 and have won three straight.
Key statistics: The Mavs are now 15-6 when Luka Doncic scores 31 or more goals this season. But he wasn’t alone today, with Christian Wood’s 30 and Tim Hardaway Jr. As 26 said.
Key Takeaways: The Mavericks challenged LeBron James to beat them – the Lakers did not dare to do the same with Doncic. In the end, Dallas’ chicken play was more effective for a 124-115 win. The Lakers and James, as they often have this season, looked like formidable rivals at first, but faded over time. And Doncic’s concerns about the support staff seemed justified in the first 24 minutes. Doubling the ball away from half court worked extremely well, as Hardaway and Spencer Dinwiddie went 1-for-10 for just three points. The Mavs, meanwhile, were happy to run their second point guard on James as an option, and he scored 9-of-18 first half points on 9-of-13 shooting to lead the Lakers to 11 points.
But in the third quarter, everything changed. The Lakers continued to outplay Dončić’s team, but quicker decisions and better ball movement resulted in an abundance of wide open 3s overall. After missing 12 of 17 long-range attempts in the first half, the Mavs buried seven of 11 in the third quarter and limited the Lakers to 6-for-1 from the same range, resulting in a 31-point swing that cost Dallas 20 points. leading in the fourth quarter. James added 20 points in the second half to score a career-high 38 points, but half of those came from the free throw line in the final period after the game was tied. Doncic, who spent minimal energy in the first half, came alive: he finished with 22 points, seven assists (no turnovers) and six rebounds, one dime short of a triple-double. — Eric Bucher
Boston Celtics 139, Milwaukee Bucks 118
Current rating: with victory Boston remained atop the East at 24-10. Milwaukee is now 22-11 as they await the return of Khris Middleton once again.
Key statistics: Jayson Tatum had 41 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists on 14-of-22 shooting for Boston in his biggest game of the season. This season, the Celtics are 15-3 when Tatum scores 30 or more, 5-1 when scoring 40 or more, and 12-2 when shooting 50 percent or more from the field.
Key Takeaways: When Tatum plays like the best player in the NBA, the Boston Celtics play like the best team in the league. That was on display again in a Christmas Day primetime battle between two of the league’s best teams, as the Celtics pulled away from the Bucks for a 139-118 win behind Tatum’s 41 points.
Competitive, the game was closer than the final score suggested, but the Celtics dominated most of the night. The Bucks entered the game as the league’s third-best defensive player, with Brook Lopez a Defensive Player of the Year candidate and Jrue Holiday and Giannis Antetokounmpo named to the perennial All-Defensive team. But Tatum looked completely unfazed and made his mark at every level — inside, mid-range, long-range.
Somehow, when Tatum plays with confidence, it rubs off on the rest of the Boston team. Point guard Marcus Smart was the most efficient, scoring just six points but dishing out eight assists on one turnover. Jaylen Brown struggled at the free throw line (2-for-6), but was clinically effective everywhere else for 29 points (11-19 overall, 5-9 from 3). Tatum hit three of 7 3s (42.9%) and that inspired solid shooting from the entire team (19-for-39, almost 50%). The Celtics outscored the Bucks from beyond the arc, 57-39.
It also helped that the Celtics were as close to full strength as they have been all season, with center Robert Williams coming off the bench for his fourth appearance of the season and the Bucks, not All-Star guard Khris Middleton. fifth game in a row. Williams only increased one of the Celtics’ advantages over the Bucks: depth. Boston’s bench defeated “Milwaukee” 40-29.
Antokounmpo has shown at times that he can erase this and other advantages of an opponent, but this was not one of those times. His +27 was the worst on the team, and he needed 22 shots to score 27 points. The edge in a battle between two of this season’s top MVP candidates: Tatum.
Memphis Grizzlies – Golden State Warriors
Current rating: Memphis and Golden State are going in two different directions. The Grizz are second in the West at 20-11, but have the same record as the best team in the conference (Denver). They have also won eight of their last 10 games. The Warriors are 11th in the West at 15-18 and have lost seven of their last nine games.
Key statistics: The Warriors are 1-3 now that Steph Curry is out with a shoulder injury. Despite a 16-point win at Toronto on Dec. 18, their three losses since Curry’s injury have been by an average of 26.7 points.
Key Takeaways: More to come!
Phoenix Suns @ Denver Nuggets
Current rating: Denver is in the conversation for the league’s best team, sitting atop the West at 20-11 and winning six of its last seven. Phoenix, the best team in the West a year ago, is fourth in the conference at 19-14 but has won just three of its last 10 games.
Key statistics: MVP Nikola Jokić is certainly improving. He is third in the NBA with averages of 24.9 points, 10.9 rebounds and 9.3 assists. He is the only center not in the top 10 in assists and the only center in the top 37 (Embiid is 38th with 4.6 assists per game). Jokić also leads the league in triple-doubles (six) and double-doubles (22) this season.
Key Takeaways: More to come!
Yaron Weitzman is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. is the author « Rise to the top: The Philadelphia 76ers and the most daring process in the history of professional sports.” Follow him on Twitter @YaronWeitzman.
Ric Bucher is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. He has previously written for Bleacher Report, ESPN The Magazine and The Washington Post, and is the author of two books, Rebound and Yao: A Life in Two Worlds, about NBA forward Brian Grant’s battle with Parkinson’s disease. He also has a daily podcast, “On the Ball with Ric Bucher.” Follow him @ on Twitterricbucher.
Melissa Rohlin is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. He previously covered the league for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Times, the Bay Area News Group and the San Antonio Express-News. Follow him @ on Twittermelissaroline.
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