Alongside the NBA All-Star festivities that commence every January of the year, Christmas day games are shoo-in blockbusters for the association. Besides food and pleasantries brought by the Yuletide season, who wouldn’t want to watch the best basketball players in the world go at each other from the bleachers right?
NBA Christmas games are also highlighted by sick Christmas jerseys that players don only for the occasion. These games, however, are not to be taken lightly by participating teams since the goal is still to get the W.
The highlight surely belongs to a grudge match between revamped rosters of rivals Golden State and Cleveland Cavaliers. Familiar faces in new domiciles (Kevin Durant, Pau Gasol, Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard, Al Horford, etc.) are also set to spice up the Christmas games, while coaches will use it to fine-tune the team’s system and chemistry.
Boston Celtics vs New York Knicks
Before the first Christmas game was played at the Madison Square Garden, it was a question if Kristaps Porzingis and Joakim Noah can hold their own against Boston’s deep rotation of bigs (Crowder, Johnson, Horford, Olynyk, etc.). The crowd also anticipated the Rose-Thomas matchup.
Rose got off to a hot start by sinking a couple of floaters, while Porzingis ended the half with an empathic slam (though Knicks were down 48-56 at halftime).
Boston’s Thomas and Horford heated in the second half, and put the Knicks down 13 with 5 minutes to play. Porzingis, Anthony, and rest of the Knicks battled from that deficit with a 16-3 run to tie the game, but Marcus Smart’s three from the left wing sealed the win for Boston.
The win helped put the Celtics on third spot (currently at 21-14) in the East and snapped the Knicks’ two game win streak.
Golden State Warriors vs Cleveland Cavaliers
When the regular season games were announced by the NBA, innumerable fans and spectators immediately glanced at the Christmas games to see if the David and Goliath matchup was there. The Goliath in the Warriors, runner-up of NBA’s last season, added prolific scorer and one-time MVP Kevin Durant into their mix and other vital pieces. The new-look Warriors struggled in their first 10 games but eventually lived up to their potential by sharing the ball better.
The David in the Cavaliers, who defied all odds when they captured the NBA crown despite being 3-1 in last year’s Finals, also bolstered their line-up by signing marksman Mike Dunleavy and an enforcer in Chris Andersen.
The storyline is obvious: The Warriors want some form of revenge while the Cavs are out to defend ‘The Land’ and get into the Warriors’ head once again.
What happened was the latter. Green had to ride the bench for getting two early fouls and a technical foul. The first through third quarters were tightly contested battles, but the Warriors appeared to be putting away the game when they had their biggest lead at 14. Cavs, with a sense of urgency, battled back from that hole and tied it at 103 with 1:51 left. Kyrie drove and kicked the ball to James for the empathic dunk. Tied at 105, Curry hit a three which Kyrie answered through his drive, putting the Warriors up by 1.
On the ensuing play, the Warriors failed to put up a shot, surrendering the possession back to Cleveland. Remember the cold-blooded shot Irving sank in the crucial moments of Game 7? He reminded Golden State of that nightmare by spinning and fading away from Thompson to hit the game winner.
The win helped the Cavs retain the top spot in the East while dealing the Warriors their 4th straight loss on head-to-head matches. The mental edge that the win brought favours Cleveland in their next face off.
Chicago Bulls vs San Antonio Spurs
The Bulls needed the win to keep themselves in the top 8 in the early goings of the season, while the Spurs had already plenty of wins but is needing every one of it to safeguard their spot in the tough Western Conference.
The main storyline, of course, was Pau Gasol facing his former team, which failed to reach the playoffs last season.
The interesting matchups involved LaMarcus Aldridge going against Robin Lopez and the Rondo-Wade tag team against the Mills-Leonard duo.
Aldridge went hot early in the game, sinking four straight baskets and punishing the rim with alley-oop dunks. He paced the Spurs with 20 points in the first quarter alone. Combined efforts from Wade, Butler, and Mirotic helped ease the deficit by 5 at the half.
In the third and fourth quarter, the Bulls were outscored by 6 and 8 points respectively by the Spurs. Wade led the Bulls with 24 markers, while Aldridge had 33 for the night.
David Robinson was also in the jam-packed AT&T arena to celebrate San Antonio’s win. As of date, both teams are within the top 8 of their respective conferences, with San Antonio having a more comfortable position over the Bulls who have at least 4 teams breathing under their necks.