December 26, 2012
By Oliver Layco
There were 5 games on the docket for Christmas day that would span the entire day. The Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics looked to start things off. The last time these two teams faced off, Rajon Rondo was ejected early on and Brooklyn was able to take advantage. Things weren’t any less chippy between these two division rivals this time around. Although, Boston was in control for most of the game thanks in part to their shooting percentage. Another factor was the lackluster effort from anyone on the Nets not named Gerald Wallace. They just seemed to sleepwalk through most of the game while Wallace was diving and giving it his all. After having a strong home record at the beginning of the season, Brooklyn has looked lost these past few games; at one point they were even one of the top teams in the East. Boston would end up on top 93-76.
The next game of the day was between the New York Knicks and the Los Angeles Lakers. Both teams are frequent players on Christmas day, so they are used to the bright lights of today’s game. New York was looking to maintain control of the East while LA was looking to just establish themselves. With Steve Nash and Pau Gasol coming off injury, the Lakers were looking to see if their grand experiment would work. For the better part of the game, the Knicks looked like they were in charge. Carmelo Anthony was doing his usual excellence while J.R. Smith was proving an able bodied sixth man for this team. Not to be outdone, Kobe Bryant matched Melo’s 34 points. With grit and a little bit of desperation, the Lakers were able to come back and win it 100-94. This pushed their winning streak to five games. Unfortunately, the next game out against the Denver Nuggets, they played lackadaisically and collapsed to fall under .500 again.
The next matchup was a rematch of the Finals between the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder. This was another game that didn’t fail to disappoint. The Heat were able to jump out to an early lead, but the Thunder were able to keep their composure and closed the gap considerably. Kevin Durant led the game with 33 points while LeBron James had 29. Neither team had fully control until Miami was able to pull away during the fourth. They would come away with the win, 103-97.
The final two games of the day I missed out on, but from what I’ve seen they were both dominated by one team. The first saw the Houston Rockets against the Chicago Bulls. The Rockets were able to take control early on and were led by James Harden’s 26 points. In fact, all Rocket starters scored in double figures. As a team, they also shot 56.1% from the field. Meanwhile, the Bulls, who look impressive at times, just looked listless. Their leading scorer was Nate Robinson off the bench with 27. One big factor of their loss was probably due to 44.6% shooting from the field. The Rockets took this one handily 120-97.
Finally, the Los Angeles Clippers looked to extend their league best winning streak to 14 against the Denver Nuggets. From the jump, it was a pretty even game; but then in the second quarter the Clippers really pulled away and were never truly threatened the rest of the way. Jamal Crawford came off the bench to lead the team with 22. Chris Paul was brilliant as always with 14 points and a team high 8 assists. While Blake Griffin was his monstrous self with some vicious dunks. Surprisingly, the Nuggets shot 50% from the field while the Clippers had 48.4%. However, the Nuggets only made 3 three point attempts to the Clippers’ 11. In the end, the Clippers would continue their stand at the top of the League with a 112-100 victory.
The Eastern Conference is shaping out like most have pictured it. Miami is leading the way with New York not too far behind. The only real surprise for me is the Atlanta Hawks. They have had a relatively quiet season and have positioned themselves for third in the East. Meanwhile out West, nothing is as expected; for me at least. The role reversal in LA is the biggest surprise. I knew the Clippers were going to be good, but not this fast. While the Lakers are still struggling just to be a Playoff team. Hopefully with Nash finally back they can finally develop some sort of consistency. Other quiet surprises are the Golden State Warriors and the Denver Nuggets. Both teams don’t have any superstar that they can go to in the clutch to close it out for them. Some point it out as their flaws, but I see it as a strength that they really rely on playing a strong team game. There’s still a long way to go in the season, so it shall be exciting to see who is crowned in June.