The NBA Christmas Day games were a bit disappointing. The Heat easily beat the Pelicans, the Bucks cruised past the Warriors, and the Nets were far better than the Celtics.
The Lakers and Clippers got relatively easy wins over Dallas and Denver. All five favourites won. Analysing these Christmas Day contests isn’t as straight forward as it may seem – these are teams still searching for rhythm, several of which were missing key men.
Our five takeaways are not hot takes. These are mainly points we already knew, which were reaffirmed by the Christmas games.
Luka needs KP
In the absence of Kristaps Porzingis, the burden on Luka Doncic is enormous. Facing the Lakers on Friday, it’s hard to pick who the Mavericks’ second-best player is. How many Lakers are better than Dallas’ second guy?
It’s no cutting edge analysis to say the Mavericks need Porzingis, but the losses to Phoenix and LA emphasise just how much they miss the Latvian star.
Warriors will get better
Andrew Wiggins and Kelly Oubre are shooting 29.4% and 16.7% from the field respectively. They are two players who divide opinion, but it isn’t controversial to say they will get better. Stephen Curry is going to hit more threes – he’s currently at 20% from deep.
There are legitimate concerns about Golden State. Wiggins and Oubre have made characteristically poor decisions, and Curry has often looked weary. They have faced arguably the two best teams in the East, though, and done so without Draymond Green.
It’s too early to write off the 2020-21 Warriors however alarming their first two games have been.
Brooklyn’s depth is dangerous
The Nets have blown out the Warriors and Celtics. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant being fully healthy, and playing their very best basketball, is obviously huge for their title ambitions. What has stood out most, though, is how smooth everything looks.
Players have settled into their roles. Caris LeVert is running the bench unit like a seasoned sixth man. Jarrett Allen and Spencer Dinwiddie have slotted nicely into their diminished roles. Trading for Landry Shamet has given a bit more shooting, and Joe Harris was impactful at both ends despite taking just six shots.
Brooklyn, through just two games, have looked as good as even the most optimistic Nets fan could have hoped.
Don’t write off Miami
Even after making the NBA Finals, the Miami Heat‘s chances of defending their Eastern Conference title were downplayed. A team with two All-Stars and a raft of young talent should not be taken lightly – just ask the New Orleans Pelicans.
Duncan Robinson broke an NBA Christmas record in the first half. While Tyler Herro looked slightly out of his depth as a starter, the Heat’s bench stepped up in a big way. Goran Dragic, Avery Bradley and Andre Iguodala were all +17 or better, going 12-for-23 from the field. Rookie Precious Achiuwa proved he’s ready to be a rotation player, taking on Zion Williamson and showing off his freaky athleticism.
The Heat are loaded. Whether they make a big trade or not, they are in position to be a serious contender.
New look Clippers
It wasn’t a surprise that the Clippers beat the Nuggets. After all, it’s not so long ago they were 3-1 up against the same opponent.
Shooting 50% from three is obviously not sustainable, and the Nuggets looked rusty, but this was an impressive performance from Ty Lue’s team. The Clippers offence looks markedly better with Serge Ibaka. Their defence is stronger across the board without Montrezl Harrell. Paul George banished some of those playoff nightmares.
Luke Kennard was solid off the bench again. Patrick Beverley hit shots and played hostile defence (resulting in foul trouble). Ivica Zubac was good once again. Beating the Nuggets comfortably is a psychological boost – that shouldn’t be understated.