The heat outlasted the pelicans to open the holiday list, while the goats and nets dusted off the warriors and Celts. Follow us as we analyze each Christmas present, including what you missed while unwrapping presents.
The NBA officially kicked off its 2020-21 regular season on Tuesday, but Christmas Day unofficially serves as the opening night for many fans. With five marquee games this year, the NBA has done its best to give everyone the Christmas gifts they wanted. Today we’re going to summarize all five Christmas fights. So be sure to stop by again.
Justin Verrier: Now that Jayson Tatum is too old to excel beyond his teenage years, his training with Kobe Bryant has quickly become the anecdote of his young career – a story told by the Mark Joneses of ad nauseam became world as the 22-year-old marched his way to another superstar performance. But there are times when the influence of the Kobe system is really unmistakable, such as when Tatum pierced Turnaround 3 on Friday in the second quarter and gave former teammate Kyrie Irving a loving slap on the tuchus …
For the most part, the Tatum clip is the one you would watch over and over again after the matchup on Celtics Christmas Day with the visiting networks – another example of Tatum as a rising force in the Eastern Conference. But Kevin Durant is now patrolling the same conference, and the suddenly sane former MVP wouldn’t benefit from it.
The nets were cut in half at three o’clock, and Durant opened a modest 2-on-6 from the floor. But then KD made a conscious decision to take the lead in the third quarter. Playing every 12 minutes, he scored 16 of his 29 points on near-perfect shooting (6-7) and did most of the work in limiting Tatum to just six points when Brooklyn took control and the game ended for good. The Nets starters (minus DeAndre Jordan) only had to record four minutes in their fourth game to score a 123-95 win. This was the second currently dominant Nets performance that seriously ushered in the KD Kyrie era.
Irving also sparkled and set a franchise record for points (37) on Christmas Day, which was accompanied by eight assists and six rebounds. But Durant was the difference. All the trademarks of a classic KD takeover could be seen in the third. He was drilling pull-ups over the top of overmatched defenders. He used his size and hesitated quickly – from his surgically repaired leg – to scurry past the defenders on the edge. And he used his ruse to inflict the fourth foul on Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown. He was trapped in defense as well, and his length made Tatum noticeably nervous on more than one game.
The nets were the great unknowns that came into the season. Most acknowledged their immense potential, but blamed the basketball gods and people with medical degrees about their fate. In two games, Durant not only looks bubbly and healthy after his Achilles tear, he also looks like the best player in the NBA. If that’s true for the rest of this turbulent 2020-21 season, all simultaneous forms in the east – whether Tatum or even the reigning conference champion Heat – may be put on hold.
Paolo Uggetti: You need to regularly remind yourself that watching the warriors is not an alternate reality these days. How else can you explain the short circuit in your brain when you watch Steph Curry start the Golden State offense like you’ve seen a million times just so his passports and gravity create an open shot for … Marquese Chriss, the ball ends in the air? That should be a shot for Klay Thompson or Kevin Durant, but it isn’t, and so there’s no real mystery why the Warriors got blown out by Durant’s current team and the Bucks (138-99) on opening night on Christmas Day.
The matchup in Milwaukee on Friday afternoon was aesthetically unappealing. The white Warriors uniforms collided with the Bucks ‘Nickelodeon blue kits, which collided with the Bucks’ dark green court. The basketball didn’t help either. Apart from a signature from Khris Middleton – and by signature I mean extremely effective (10 to 15, 31 points in 26 minutes) and the opposite of being conspicuous – the matchup lacked the thrill. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Steph both had subpar games by their standards, and the only positive touch for Golden State was James Wiseman looking like one again, scoring three threesomes and making some stellar defensive games.
Nice block from Wiseman who comes over immediately after Wiggins bit on the fake pump. Augustine went to put it on the glass. picture. Twitter. com / oS9dLUhhx6
In two games, the Warriors see the floor of the Western Conference much closer than their ceiling. Draymond Green hasn’t played a minute yet, and the sample size is tiny, but in a season where the West will be a glove and there are 10 fewer regular season games, the frustration and harsh reality for Curry, Steve, could be so Kerr, hire and Joe Lacob faster than expected. As they play more games, the Warriors may find that, while still being the cornerstone, leader, and face of the franchise, Steph is spiritually closer to what Wiseman is now – young and full of potential, but also in need Growth. Sure, the Steph Effect is still real, but it can’t single-handedly develop young players, make RPG players convert shots, or turn a team into a competitor in transition.
Rob Mahoney: It was an inspiring decision for the NBA to commemorate the season of giving with an appearance on the Heat that got the most out of the Pelicans by treating every possession as something of a sort of extra-pass Olympics. A ride to Miami was never just a ride; It was an excuse for the daring Goran Dragic to steal the defense’s attention for a moment before throwing a pass at Andre Iguodala, only to have him zip the ball into the opposite corner, where he jumped up the wing and into the wing Hands of one of the dangerous and expectant marksmen of the heat. Overall, Miami scored 76 percent of its field goals as assist in the 111: 98 victory – enough to make the pelicans gesticulate wildly at each other if they weren’t shaking their heads because they knew frustration. If you looked closely (possibly using ESPN’s zoomed broadcast angle), you could see Stan Van Gundy’s hair gray in real time.
Grinding up long, patient possessions was clearly more work than New Orleans wanted to vacation. It is deeply admirable how Miami, just two months away from the 2020 Playoffs marathon, can show up with the energy and rhythm that suggest their run is not really over. Jimmy Butler was eliminated from the game at halftime with an ankle injury and it didn’t matter. Bam Adebayo was eliminated with almost eight minutes to go, and it didn’t matter. Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram combined scored 60 points for the Pelicans, and it didn’t matter. The heat just keeps swirling through sensible passes and defensive rotations until even her newest additions – like Avery Bradley, Maurice Harkless, and standout rookie Precious Achiuwa – settle comfortably on the machine. The Pelicans’ attempt to run late was turned down by the same collective will that won Miami to the east last season. I would call it heartwarming, but part of what makes the heat so special is the kind of defiance that isn’t exactly in the Christmas spirit. Celebrate them anyway, for both the sugar and the seasoning.
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