NBA Christmas: Nikola Jokic, Jayson Tatum, Luka Doncic Top Best Players; LeBron James hat tip in defeat
The NBA’s five-game Christmas schedule is in the books, and it ended with a bang when the denver nuggets needed overtime to survive the visit phoenix suns128-125.
At the opening of the day, the 76ers dominated the second half to defeat the knicks119-112, which was followed by Mavericks pulling out the lakers, 124-115, behind a 51-point third quarter. The boston celtics ran away from the milwaukee dollars with a 139-118 victory, and the impoverished warriors of the golden state made a statement with a 123-109 win over full strength memphis grizzlies.
Below are the best Christmas Day performances.
Nikola Jokic: 41 points, 15 assists, 15 rebounds
Jokic is here putting up Wilt numbers. For the second time in a week he records a 40-point triple-double. (And in that other game, against Charlotte, he had 27 rebounds.) He shot 64 percent from the field against Phoenix, including 2-for-4 from beyond the arc and 7-for-9 from the free throw line. The Nuggets have won seven of the past eight, now have sole possession of the Western Conference’s No. 1 seed, and Jokic has to be the favorite for MVP.
Jayson Tatum: 41 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists
When there’s a prime-time matchup, you can count on Tatum going these days, and going toe-to-toe with Giannis Antetokounmpo certainly qualifies.
Tatum was lethal at all three levels Sunday, going 3-for-7 from deep, 3-for-4 from midrange and 8-for-11 in the paint. He was 10 of 10 from the free throw line, where he’s posting a career-high 8.5 attempts per game this season.
Jordan Poole: 32 points in 29 minutes
Poole entered Christmas averaging 28 points in games Stephen Curry hasn’t played, and he continued that trend on Sunday with 32 points in just 29 minutes. Poole was clearly in cook mode from the start, fidgeting to create shots and moving off the ball to catch and shoot. He had a shot in the 40th, but was ejected for committing a second technical foul midway through the fourth quarter.
Luka Doncic: 32 points, 9 assists, 9 rebounds
Doncic measured himself in his typical brilliance, methodically putting together this dull night with just 16 shots (12-of-16 free throws) and holding the Lakers within range with nine fourth-quarter points. This fake Doncic he threw at Wenyen Gabriel was pretty funny.
Joel Embiid: 35 points, 8 rebounds
Embiid finished 12 of 22 from the field and reached the line 15 times, dunking 10. He was working from his office, putting the ball down from the extended free throw line/elbow area, and hit his jump shot from middle distance. , who has been efficient all year, scoring 15 points in the third quarter before Philadelphia made its move by going 24-9 through most of the fourth quarter.
Harden has been playing very well since he returned to the lineup, and he again made everything go right on Christmas for a Sixers team that has won eight straight. He finished with five 3-pointers and tied Embiid with 10 made free throws. Harden on pick and roll is still a pretty much guaranteed quality shot. Harden has notched a remarkable 34 assists in his last two games.
Christian Wood: 30 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists
Wood coming off the bench has been a major point of discussion all season. He has started the last five and it’s going to be hard to send him back to the bench after games like this. The seven assists are a career high for Wood, as are the four steals he added to his line. When Wood plays 30 minutes or more, he basically averages 24 and 10 boards. Since he became a starter, he is averaging 18 and nine. Dallas needs his firepower and the pairing with Doncic is ideal offensively.
Hat tips in defeat
- Lebron James: LeBron did everything he could with Anthony Davis still sidelined, posting 38 points, six rebounds and five assists on 13-of-23 shooting, including 12-of-12 from the free throw line. He committed just two turnovers and the Lakers were on the positive side of his 34 minutes. LeBron has now scored at least 30 points in his last seven games.
- Julius Randle: Randle went out on fire, hitting four of his first six 3-pointers in 1 1/2 quarters. He was ruled out from deep after that because he still finished with 35 points and eight boards. Randle has played well most of the season and has averaged 31 and 11 in his last three, but the Knicks, after winning eight straight, have lost each of those three.
- I Morant: Morant finished with 32 points, eight assists and seven rebounds on 50-plus percent shooting, but it wasn’t enough as Desmond Bane put up a nine-point performance on 0-for-7-for-3 in his second game after missing 17 contests. .