For any basketball fan, NBA basketball on Christmas Day is always something to look forward to. For anyone’s schedule that looked like mine, you got up early to open presents and then unwound in front of some of the best matchups and talents professional basketball has to offer.
And with TNT’s doubleheader featuring the Los Angeles Lakers vs. the New York Knicks and the Miami Heat vs. the Oklahoma City Thunder, this year’s games certainly did not disappoint as they were both incredibly close, going down to the wire.
Lakers vs. Knicks
The Lakers are star-packed, but had yet to prove themselves as a team that was contending for a title. They’ve had injuries, but they still haven’t even cracked the top eight in the West. The Knicks, on the other hand, are a team that has surprised many with its players stepping up after injuries benched their big name stars. At the time, New York held the No. 1 spot in the Eastern Conference.
In this case, the team with the greater amount of experience took the win. In a close game throughout, the Lakers earned the 100-94 victory, showing its poise in the fourth and outscoring the Knicks 23-16.
Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony each had superb nights, matching each other with 34 points apiece. It was up to the players around them to make the difference.
For New York, J.R. Smith can either be red hot or ice cold. On Christmas he couldn’t be stopped, scoring 25 points. In addition, Jason Kidd showed he could still play despite his age, tallying seven assists.
But it was Steve Nash who really made the difference. In his second game back, the two-time MVP tallied a double-double with 16 points and 11 assists. He allowed Bryant to play off the ball and made passes that the other Lakers point guards just couldn’t make. Bryant is without doubt still the star on the team, but Nash is the X-factor.
The win was the fifth straight for the Lakers and put them back at .500. It seemed like that was their turning point, but with time it may still come together.
Heat vs. Thunder
A finals rematch —it doesn’t get any better than that.
Unfortunately for any Heat haters, the result was the same with Miami taking the 103-97 win.
Personally, I thought Miami might run away with that game considering they nearly swept the series last June and due to the fact that they’re nearly unbeatable at home. However, you can never doubt the Thunder, which have been on top of their game.
As expected, LeBron James was dominant, leading the Heat in points, rebounds and assists with 29, eight and nine, respectively. Despite the fact that Kevin Durant had a spectacular performance with 33 points, it was LeBron’s night to shine. I really don’t think there’s a player in the NBA that can guard James well.
James came up clutch, feeding Chris Bosh for a dunk that gave the Heat a three point lead with just over 25 seconds remaining. On the next possession for the Thunder, Durant missed a three that would’ve tied the ball game.
Nevertheless, we’ve come to expect those kinds of numbers from James and the game ball could have gone to one of his teammates who needed a confidence boost. A struggling Mario Chalmers got just that for Christmas, tallying 20 points on the night, including three triples.
He was the better point guard, outplaying Russell Westbrook, who scored 21 points on 5-19 shooting and three assists.
It’s early in the season, but perhaps a foreshadowing of the future?
A version of this article appeared on page 10 of January 7th, 2013’s print edition of the Nexus.