The NBA Christmas Day games might not have gone as envisioned by teams due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but despite the noticeable absences, there was plenty of exciting basketball played throughout the league’s five-game slate.
In the end, it was the Utah Jazz, Brooklyn Nets, Golden State Warriors, Milwaukee Bucks and New York Knicks that came away with victories on December 25, but there were a number of stellar individual performances as well.
LEBRON SURPASSES KOBE ON CHRISTMAS DAY SCORING LIST
Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James made some holiday history. With his point production against the Brooklyn Nets, James passed Kobe Bryant to become the NBA’s all-time leading scorer on Christmas.
Bryant scored 395 total points in 16 career Christmas games. Entering Saturday’s contest, James needed just 13 points to pass the Lakers legend, and he officially eclipsed Bryant with a pair of free throws late in the second quarter.
Saturday’s matchup marked the 16th time that James has played on Christmas Day, which ties him with Bryant for the most all-time. During those games, the star forward has put together averages of 25.5 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 7.1 assists while shooting 29.4 percent from beyond the arc.
GIANNIS STATES MVP CASE
The Bucks have been without their leading man for the past five games due to being in the league’s COVID-19 protocols, but after being cleared on Christmas Eve, Giannis made a splash in his return to the lineup. Not only did he lead all scorers with 36 points, but he absolutely dominated the second half and helped lead the Bucks to a comeback win over the Celtics. It wasn’t easy, especially as Boston’s defense tried to do everything in its power to try and contain Antetokounmpo. It worked in the first half, as the Greek Freak had just seven points through two quarters while going just 3 of 8 from the field.
The Celtics did a great job of sending two defenders at him as he came downhill toward the basket, and making it difficult for him to get shots up as they tried to swat the ball from his hands before he had enough time to go into a euro step. But then the second half happened, and Antetokounmpo settled into the game and began to take over.
STEPH GONNA STEPH
It speaks to Curry’s impact that he can shoot that poorly and still end up a plus-24 for the game. His 33 points were his career-high on Christmas.
I love that he offset his shooting struggles by attacking off the dribble. He has struggled to finish in the paint this year; he was better on Saturday, and he got himself to the free-throw line nine times, hitting eight. Curry is taking more 3-pointers than he has at any point in his career, but it behooves him not to forget about the other two levels of scoring, if for rhythm purposes only.
As the Suns employed the familiar defensive strategy of selling out to contain Curry, Otto Porter, who is looking like one of the league’s better low-level offseason pickups (he’s on a minimum contract), put the finishing touches on this win for the Warriors, scoring 13 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter, including 10 in the final five minutes and the game’s final seven points.
KEMBA SHINES BRIGHT FOR THE KNICKS
Kemba Walker recorded the seventh Christmas triple-double in NBA history and first for a Knick. (This was New York’s 54th Christmas game, a league-high.) He didn’t shoot particularly well (3 for 12 overall, 2 for 9 from deep) but, outside of Randle, did the lion’s share of the playmaking, with Derrick Rose recovering from ankle surgery, Immanuel Quickley re-conditioning after a stint in the health and safety protocols and Miles McBride still in protocols. When Walker checked out after playing 40 minutes, the Madison Square Garden crowd stood up and chanted his name.
This follows Walker’s 44-point performance against the Washington Wizards on Thursday. Walker did not play a single minute in between November 26 and December 18.
🚨 KEMBA TRIPLE-DOUBLE 🚨— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) December 25, 2021
10 points, 11 assists, and 10 boards (and still counting). pic.twitter.com/7g7ZtwhENT