The Clippers handed the Lakers their fourth straight loss, the Sixers crushed the Bucks, the Warriors shocked the Rockets, LeBron James got banged up and Damion Lee, Chris Boucher and Furkan Korkmaz look like the fantasy pickups of the day after a five-game Christmas Day slate.
Clippers 111, Lakers 106 – The Clippers got 35 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, a steal and five 3-pointers on 11-of-19 shooting in Wednesday’s big win over the Lakers. They’re now 2-0 vs. the Lakers this season and sent LeBron James and company to their fourth straight loss. Paul George was disappointing with 17 points on 5-of-18 shooting, but Montrezl Harrell came through with 18 points, six boards and a block in a tough matchup. Ivica Zubac got loose for 11 points and eight rebounds but played just 17 minutes. With Harrell eating up the center minutes, Zubac probably belongs on waivers in your league. Patrick Beverley had a huge steal against LeBron James late to help seal the win and finished with eight points, nine rebounds, four assists, a steal, a block and a 3-pointer in the win. Beverley (groin) and Leonard (rest) sat out on Sunday but both of them looked perfectly healthy last night. Lou Williams had a disappointing night with six points, seven assists and two steals on 1-of-6 shooting in 29 minutes. Williams scored 22 and 20 points over his previous two games and will look to bounce back against the Jazz on Saturday, which is the Clippers’ last game of the week.
The Lakers got 24 points, six rebounds, three assists, two steals, two blocks and a 3-pointer from Anthony Davis in 39 minutes after getting a knee scare in his last game, and LeBron James just missed a triple-double with 23 points, nine rebounds, 10 assists, two steals, a block and two 3-pointers on 9-of-24 shooting. LeBron was kneed in the groin by Patrick Beverley in this one and said it “sent him back to where he was five days ago.” He missed a game on Dec. 22 with a groin problem and there is some concern he could miss a game or two in the near future. He played through it last night and looked OK, so hopefully he’ll be good to go for the weekend. The Lakers, who have now lost four straight games, get the Blazers on Saturday and the Mavericks on Sunday. Kyle Kuzma came off the bench and actually led the Lakers in scoring with 25 points, four rebounds, a steal and four 3-pointers in 27 minutes. He did a lot of his damage in just five minutes of the first quarter but has looked good in both his games since returning from a sprained ankle. Pick him up if he’s still sitting on your waiver wire. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope played through a sprained ankle on Wednesday but was able to finish the game with 13 points and two 3-pointers. Just keep an eye on him in case the ankle swells up prior to Saturday’s game against the Blazers and Sunday’s meeting with the Mavs.
Celtics 118, Raptors 102 – Jaylen Brown hit 10-of-13 shots and 5-of-7 3-pointers for 30 points, six rebounds and four assists in a Christmas Day win over the Raptors. This was the Celtics first win in Toronto in Brown’s career and I foolishly faded him in DFS because I though the return of Gordon Hayward might slow him down. Hayward looked great in his return from a three-game absence with a foot injury and had 14 points, five rebounds, six assists, two steals, a block and two 3-pointers in 26 minutes. Hopefully the foot injury is behind Hayward. It will be interesting to see if he’s good to go for Friday vs. the Cavs and Saturday’s home rematch against the Raptors. Jayson Tatum was disappointing with 11 points on 5-of-18 shooting but also had nine rebounds, six assists, two steals and a 3-pointer. He’ll bounce back this weekend. Enes Kanter was able to finally play outside the country and had 12 points and 11 rebounds in 18 minutes, making him worth a look if he’s available in your league.
Fred VanVleet led the way for Toronto with 27 points, four rebounds, six assists, four steals and two 3-pointers, and Chris Boucher came off the bench for a career-high 24 points, six boards, two blocks and three 3-pointers on 7-of-10 shooting in 28 minutes. Boucher only had five points on Monday and while he’s far from a guarantee to play this well on a nightly basis, he should get plenty of opportunities as long as Marc Gasol (hamstring) and Pascal Siakam (groin) remain sidelined. He’ll be one of the hottest pickups in fantasy hoops after Wednesday’s explosion. Boucher also had 21 points, seven boards and four blocks on Sunday against the Mavericks. Serge Ibaka, who came in hot, scored just 12 points in 28 minutes, OG Anunoby had five points and two blocks in 25 minutes, and Kyle Lowry hit just 4-of-13 shots for 14 points and eight assists, but also had two steals, a block and three 3-pointers in the loss. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has also been benefitting from his teammates’ injuries but hit just 2-of-7 shots for six points in 18 minutes off the bench.
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Sixers 121, Bucks 109 – Joel Embiid (31 & 11 – his seventh 30-10 game this season), Al Horford (11 & 10) and Ben Simmons (15 & 14) all double-doubled and the Sixers held Giannis Antetokounmpo in check to get a huge win on Christmas Day. The 23-10 Sixers gave the Bucks their fifth loss of the season, but Milwaukee still holds the league’s best record at 27-5. Tobias Harris came through with 22 points and five 3-pointers and Josh Richardson bounced back with a huge line of 18 points, five rebounds, four assists, a steal, a block and four 3-pointers on 7-of-20 shooting. Richardson had just nine points on Monday so hopefully Wednesday’s game gets him going. Furkan Korkmaz came through with 16 points, three steals and four 3-pointers off the bench, and is now somehow averaging 18.5 points, 3.0 steals and 3.5 3-pointers over his last two games. Prior to that, Korkmaz had scored in single digits in 11 straight games with a high of just eight points. He’s clearly benefitting from the absence of Matisse Thybulle (knee) and is worth a look now that he’s suddenly relevant. However, it’s also possible he could disappear again at any time. Korkmaz will be worth a look with the Sixers playing at Orlando on Friday and at Miami on Saturday. The Sixers got their first home win on Christmas Day in 31 years and tied the franchise record with 21 3-pointers.
Giannis hit just 8-of-27 shots, missed all seven of his 3-pointers and hit 2-of-4 free throws on his way to 18 points. He still came through with 14 points, seven assists, a steal and a block, but this was not the game he was hoping for on Christmas Day. He was poked in the eye and was also seen stretching his back during the game, but the assumption is he’ll be good to go for the weekend. Khris Middleton hit 12-of-21 shots and five 3-pointers for 31 points, eight rebounds, four assists and a steal, and Brook Lopez had 11 points, five boards and three 3-pointers in the loss. Donte DiVincenzo had six points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals in a start, and George Hill had 15 points, two assists and three 3-pointers in 26 minutes off the bench. Both players are benefitting from the absence of Eric Bledsoe (leg), but neither has been a must-own player. DiVincenzo has been close though and tends to fill up stat sheets even when he’s not scoring a ton of points. The Bucks play the Hawks on Friday and the Magic on Saturday to round out their week.
Warriors 116, Rockets 104 – All five Warriors starters scored in double figures in a shocking 116-104 win over the Rockets. Damion Lee hit 5-of-9 shots, 2-of-2 3-pointers and 10-of-10 free throws on his way to 22 points, a career-high 15 rebounds, four assists and three steals. Lee has been a popular fantasy pick up and came through in a big way on Christmas. He’s averaging 15.7 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 0.8 steals and 1.8 3-pointers over his last six games, which includes a four-point dud on Dec. 18. He’s cooking right now and will be the hottest pickup in fantasy hoops after this one. Draymond Green had 20 points and 11 boards, D’Angelo Russell had 20 points on 8-of-19 shooting, Glenn Robinson returned from his ankle injury for 18 points and two 3-pointers, and Willie Cauley-Stein had 10 points, four rebounds, two steals and four blocks in the win. The Warriors have somehow won three straight games. With Robinson and Lee playing so well, Alec Burks disappeared with eight points in 24 minutes, and Marquese Chriss played just 12 minutes. Pick up Lee, give Robinson a look, hang onto Burks and sell high on Green, as there’s no way he keeps playing every night for a team looking for a lottery pick. Eric Paschall’s struggles continued as he sat out the second half with a bruised hip. He’s been banged up and struggling enough that you can move on and find a hot free agent. Having said that, he should still have some late-season intrigue for the tanking Dubs.
For the Rockets, Russell Westbrook had 30 points, 12 rebounds and five assists on 11-of-32 shooting, James Harden had 24 points and 11 assists on 9-of-18 shooting, Clint Capela had a 10 & 11 double-double with a steal and a block, and Danuel House hit five 3-pointers for 18 points, five rebounds, a steal and a block. Hopefully this is a sign that House is about to heat up, but he still hit just 5-of-15 shots. P.J. Tucker had seven points and eight rebounds, but should bounce back, while Ben McLemore hit 2-of-9 shots in 28 minutes, scoring six points. With House getting healthy and playing 35 minutes, McLemore’s run appears to be over. Especially with Eric Gordon (knee) on the verge of returning. Somehow, James Harden attempted just one free throw on the night, which he missed. I still don’t believe it. This was the biggest Christmas Day upset in 30 NBA seasons.
Pelicans 112, Nuggets 100 – The Pelicans got 31 points, seven rebounds, two steals, a block and a career-high seven 3-pointers from Brandon Ingram to snap Denver’s seven-game winning streak. The 9-23 Pelicans have now won three of their last four games and will need to keep it going if they’re going to climb back into the playoff hunt. Jrue Holiday had 20 points, eight assists and a season-high six steals, J.J. Redick scored 15 with two 3-pointers, Lonzo Ball started again and had 10 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two 3-pointers despite hitting just 4-of-13 shots, and Derrick Favors came through with a fun eight points, 13 rebounds, a career-high eight assists, a steal and three blocks on 3-of-9 shooting. Josh Hart hit 5-of-10 shots for 16 points and nine rebounds off the bench, and Hart and Ball are the potential fantasy pickups from this one. Now that Ball is starting and getting big minutes (36 last night), he could take off at any time. Jaxson Hayes played just seven minutes and while I still like him as a stash, he’s going to be tough to hang onto until he starts getting consistent minutes. Zion Williamson hopes to be doing some 5-on-5 work after the new year and the Pelicans are teaching him how to walk and run differently. This does not move my needle on Zion, at all. I’d still not be surprised if he doesn’t even play this season, but that’s simply my opinion.
For the Nuggets, Paul Millsap failed to score after getting abused by Ingram, Jamal Murray hit just 2-of-10 shots for eight points and none of the Nuggets starters hit half of their shots. Gary Harris hit 6-of-13 shots and three 3-pointers for 15 points and four steals and has been playing better of late. He’s hit 17-of-30 shots over his last three games and has scored in double figures in seven of his last nine games. Maybe he’s finally getting ready to turn it around. With Millsap invisible, Jerami Grant came off the bench for 17 points and two 3-pointers, but Millsap should be ready to bounce back in the next one.
Victor Oladipo (right knee surgery) is hoping to make his regular-season debut by late-January, according to Adrian Wojnarowski. I still think he’s going to be eased back into action with kid gloves and while his debut could end up being bad news for guys like T.J. Warren, Jeremy Lamb and Aaron Holiday, I wouldn’t panic if you own any of them. I still think Oladipo’s minutes will be strictly monitored with the goal of simply having him ready to roll near full speed for the playoffs. In other words, I'm still not sad I don't own him anywhere.