The Christmas Day games were packed with some wow moments, memorable performances and telling results that can help set the stage for the rest of a season that looks quite unpredictable.
Boston makes Statement of Intent
All season long, the sentiment in these parts has been Boston and Milwaukee are the two best teams — not only in the East but also in the NBA.
Then in the most anticipated game on Christmas Day — the Celtics steamrolled the Bucks. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown combined to score 70 and a Celtics team that had appeared somewhat jaded in the past couple of weeks came in focused and dominated.
If Jayson Tatum and Giannis Antetokounmpo are the two mid-season frontrunners for the MVP award, Tatum made his case on Sunday. The Celtics’ star scored 20 of his 41 points in a third quarter that changed the game.
The Embiid-Harden Partnership
Amid rumors he may have his eyes back on the Rockets, James Harden combined with Joel Embiid for another impressive performance Sunday. The Beard and The Process combined for 64 points on 19-of-38 shooting, while Harden added 13 assists.
After some early season struggles, the Sixers now find themselves in the the East. Philly is only two games behind No. 1 Boston in the loss column despite Embiid and Harden playing only 15 games together. And in those 15 games, the team has a stellar 9.8 net rating with its star twosome on the floor. Both have playoff demons to answer for come spring. It would be unfair to say those two have not impressed to close 2022.
After getting absolutely demolished in New York by the Knicks and Nets, the prideful Warriors came home fired up, hosting the Grizzlies in a building that’s very difficult to leave with a win. But Steph Curry still didn’t play. Andrew Wiggins didn’t play, as well
But the Grizzlies also entered Sunday’s contest intent on proving a point. Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson Jr. were back in the starting five. Ja Morant was debuting his signature shoe. And this was the first Christmas Day game the Grizzlies organization had ever played. So what happened? They flopped.
JJJ couldn’t stay out of foul trouble. Bane couldn’t make any shots (he missed all seven of his 3s). Memphis’s normally stout defense was shredded defending the 3-point line. Dillon Brooks was punked by Klay Thompson. Ty Jerome and Anthony Lamb combined to score 25 points. It was all so disappointing for a Grizzlies team that loves to tell anyone who asks that they’re the best team in the Western Conference.
Fingers crossed we’ll see them get a chance to prove it in a seven-game series against Golden State a few months from now.
Aaron Gordon's Showtime
The NBA saved the best for last — the Denver Nuggets and Phoenix Suns put on the day’s most entertaining game. Scratch that, it is the most entertaining game of the season. And the biggest highlight was Aaron Gordon throwing down the hammer on the Suns’ Landry Shamet in overtime
Gordon had seven dunks on the night and finished with 28 points, but the star of the show was the two-time MVP Nikola Jokic who had a 41-point triple-double.
The Suns were without Devin Booker, who tried but left the game four minutes in due to a groin injury (he had missed the previous three games). Without Booker, Shamet stepped up with 31 and Phoenix showed real grit, but the Nuggets came away with the 128-125 win and are now in sole possession of first place in the West.