Christmas gifts and Christmas coal
In what was a spectacular slate of holiday hoops on paper, none of the five matchups lived up to the Christmas craze with each game ending in double-digit victories. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant made a statement in TD Garden with a 123-95 beatdown over the Celtics. Irving dropped 37/8/6 while KD had 29 points including 16 in the third quarter. Zion and BI combined for 60 but lost to Miami despite Jimmy Butler (ankle) sitting the second half. The Bucks embarrassed Stephen Curry and the Warriors in the most lopsided contest of the day in a 138-99 blowout. The Lakers talent and depth was too much for Luka and the Mavs. And in the nightcap, Kawhi Leonard caught an elbow from teammate Serge Ibaka, but Paul George and the Clippers didn’t blow a lead to the Nuggets (for once).
Here’s a recap of the NBA Christmas Day games including the good, bad and everything in between.
We love to see it
Brandon Ingram & Zion Williamson — BI and Zion are going to be the one-two punch for the Pelicans this season, but the question is: who’s the one and who’s the two? It might be more of a 1a/1b scenario because the duo dominated the Heat despite the loss. Ingram had 28 points on 7-of-17 shooting, 4-of-8 from deep and 10-of-11 from the free throw line. He didn’t do much aside from scoring, collecting just two boards and three helpers. But he converted some tough baskets in the paint and had it going from the perimeter. As for Zion, he played a game-high 38 minutes!! Praise the fantasy basketball Gods (and Stan Van Gundy) if you drafted Williamson this season. He snapped for 32 points and 14 rebounds, also both game-highs, and did so on 11-of-20 FGs and 10-of-15 FTs. If SVG can figure out a way to create space in the paint for Zion when Steven Adams is on the floor, the 2019 No. 1 pick could be in store for ridiculous fantasy output every night.
Duncan Robinson & Goran Dragic — The league needs to put some respect on Duncan Robinson’s name. He was left wide open and unchecked on multiple occasions throughout the game and made the Pelicans pay for it. The sniper tallied a team-high 23 points and five rebounds, hitting 8-of-14 shots (7-of-13 threes) in Miami’s win. The seven triples tied Brandon Ingram’s Christmas Day record for most in a game and his six first-half triples is the most in a half on the holiday as well. Opposing teams need to start giving Robinson the type of defensive attention Steph Curry and Klay Thompson get as shooters because he can get that hot. Dragic had himself a nice fantasy showing off the bench with 18 points, nine assists and four steals in 27 minutes. Hope y’all saw that filthy move in the quarter where he went behind-the-back on Lonzo Ball and up-and-under for the finish. Dragic is currently rostered in 76% of Yahoo leagues meaning 24% of you should grab him ASAP, especially in standard leagues.
Khris Middleton — One of the most underrated players in the NBA, Middleton had 31 points, five assists, four rebounds and two steals in 26 minutes. He hit 10-of-15 shots, 6-of-8 triples and 5-of-5 FTs. Talk about finding your shooting stroke. The two-time All-Star might be the biggest beneficiary of the Jrue Holiday trade, because as good as Middleton is, he’s better as a No. 3 option rather than a No. 2. Playing alongside Holiday and Giannis Antetokounmpo will pay major dividends for the swingman.
James Wiseman — The Dubs rookie was the lone bright spot in the blowout loss to the Bucks Friday. In just his second career start, Wiseman racked up 18 points, eight rebounds and three blocks. He went 5-of-11 from the floor, 5-of-6 from the charity stripe and get this: 3-of-4 from distance. You read that correctly. The Warriors 7-foot center made a few triples on the night and Steve Kerr said the rookie will continue to become a focal point in the offense, according to Anthony Slater of The Athletic. Wiseman is available in 15% of Yahoo leagues and should be rostered. I snagged him off waivers and started him in a 10-team league prior to the Warriors-Bucks game. Step ya game up!
Josh Richardson — The former 76er had himself a nice game for fantasy purposes, recording 17 points, two rebounds, two assists and two steals in the loss to the Lakers. Richardson scored in a variety of ways, knocking down threes, getting to the rack and hitting in the midrange, too. He is Dallas’ best defender so he should always get good playing time unless he’s in foul trouble like in the Mavs’ opener. So the steals and occasional blocks will be there, but he could emerge as the team’s second leading scorer while Kristaps Porzingis (knee) is out. Playing with Luka Doncic (27/7/4) makes life easier for Richardson and things will open up for the wing when KP returns.
Dennis Schroder & Montrezl Harrell — In just their second games as Lakers, this duo combined for 40 points in their win over the Mavs. Schroder had 18 points and six assists on 7-of-11 shooting while Harrell had 22 points, seven boards and a steal on 10-of-13 shooting. We love efficiency. The reigning 6MOY Harrell has played more minutes off the bench than starter Marc Gasol for the second straight game, and this trend will likely continue throughout the season with the Lakers looking to preserve the soon-to-be 36-year-old for the long run. Harrell and Anthony Davis are one helluva combo for the Lakers, too. As for Schroder, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported the Lakers have engaged in contract extension talks with the point guard and that a deal could come in early 2021. Schroder is going to be a major contributor for the Lakers in 2020-21 and for some reason, he’s still available in 18% of Yahoo leagues. Pick. Him. Up.
Nicolas Batum & Serge Ibaka — Batum gave us a flashback Friday of his Charlotte days with 13 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, a steal and a block in the Clippers win over the Nuggets. If he can consistently score 10-15 points for LAC, they will be tough to beat and Batum will be worth a nod in standard and deeper leagues. Ibaka’s highlight of the night was one to forget, as he accidentally elbowed Kawhi Leonard late in the fourth quarter which caused Leonard to bleed and exit the game. The good news for Ibaka and his fantasy managers: he didn’t lose fantasy points for the assault and finished with 15 points, two rebounds, two assists and a block in 21 minutes.
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Jarrett Allen & DeAndre Jordan — Someone needs to let Steve Nash know that Jarrett Allen should be the Nets starting center. Can you volunteer as tribute? Thanks. Allen logged nine points, 11 rebounds and four blocks in 21 minutes off the bench during Brooklyn’s Christmas Day victory over the Celtics. Not bad, right? DJ had four points, seven rebounds, two blocks and two assists in 19 minutes. Not bad, either. The issue is, Allen should be on the floor when the ball goes up and he should see at least 30 minutes per game. The 22-year-old has upped his scoring and rebounding marks in each of his first three seasons and is a much better defender than DJ is at this point in his career. If you have Allen on your squad, keep him in your lineup and pray that Nash makes the switch sooner rather than later. May the odds be ever in your favor.
Caris LeVert & Spencer Dinwiddie — LeVert came down a tad from his impressive opening night performance, recording 10 points and three assists in 19 minutes. He was efficient shooting the rock going 5-of-8 from the floor, but he had seven giveaways on the night. The good thing for LeVert’s fantasy manager’s is the young wing can get his own shot and create for others whenever he wants. Dinwiddie, on the other hand, played 29 minutes but scored a minor six points on 2-of-6 shooting. He added four boards, two dimes, two steals and a block to salvage an underwhelming fantasy showing, but this is clearly not the same Dinwiddie as last season. And that shouldn’t surprise anyone with Kevin Durant (29 points, 9-of-16 FGs) and Kyrie Irving (37/8/6) healthy and dominating in the young season. If you’re in 10-team leagues, benching Dinwiddie for someone with a bigger offensive role might be worth a look.
Jeff Teague & Payton Pritchard — Jeff Teague followed up his 19-point, four-assist Celtics debut with a scoreless 0-of-5 dud in a loss to the Nets. The veteran point guard played 21 minutes but was slightly outperformed by rookie Payton Pritchard. Pritchard had seven points, hitting 3-of-5 shots while adding two boards and two steals. He had three turnovers also but two of them were him just stepping out of bounds in the corner as opposed to bad passes. But the Oregon Duck alum looks confident and comfortable and should continue to get minutes as long as Kemba Walker is out. Neither guard is worth fantasy consideration just yet, but Pritchard should be monitored for those in standard and deeper leagues if he starts to put some numbers up.
Michael Porter Jr. — MPJ had a quiet night scoring just 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting. He tacked on three boards, two assists, two steals and made a couple threes, giving him a decent fantasy performance. Not going to lie, I was hoping for more from MPJ with JaMychal Green (calf) out of the lineup. Porter only played 23 minutes though which is a bit concerning. If you’re reading this, Michael Malone, unleash that man. PLEASE!
Warriors — The Dubs got smoked by the Bucks 138-99 and almost every player on their roster had a lackluster fantasy performance. Stephen Curry continued his tradition of playing terribly on Christmas, managing just 19 points, six assists and four rebounds. He knocked down just 6-of-17 shots and for the second time in as many games, he went 2-of-10 from beyond the arc. In Steph’s defense, he found his teammates often for open shots but they just didn’t go in (GSW went 10-of-45 on threes). The two-time MVP isn’t getting the same quality of looks that he’s had in years past either, especially with Klay Thompson out for the season. But Draymond Green’s nearing return should help. Kelly Oubre is another guy who will benefit upon Green’s return. The first-year Bay Area resident went 1-of-10 from the floor and 0-of-5 from deep, finishing with just three points and five boards in 20 minutes. He’s now 4-of-24 through two contests, has yet to make a three and at one point took a shot while surrounded by a trio of defenders, leaving Steph and Steve Kerr crying internally. Apologies to Oubre’s fantasy managers: good looks don’t get you points. And lastly Andrew Wiggins, who like Oubre shot atrociously for the Dubs in back-to-back games. Wiggins went 6-of-18 including 0-of-4 from distance, finishing with a mere 12 points and six rebounds. If you’re upset because you drafted him, just know this is a safe space. Let it all out.
Eric Bledsoe & Lonzo Ball — First-year Pelican Eric Bledsoe had a 2-of-10 shooting night including 1-of-6 from deep. He added six assists but nearly cancelled that out with five turnovers in 33 minutes. I know it’s only been two games, but Bledsoe doesn’t fit well with the starting lineup and might be better suited coming off the bench as a sixth man. It would allow him to dominate the ball more rather than spotting up for catch-and-shoot looks. Lonzo looks as confident as ever shooting threes, but he went just 2-of-8 on such shots Friday. The six assists, two steals and block were a nice touch, but Ball would benefit from a Bledsoe-to-JJ Redick starting lineup swap. Play Lonzo with confidence and be weary with Bledsoe for now.
Jimmy Butler (ankle) — The Miami Heat star sat out the second half of Friday’s game as he was dealing with a stiff ankle that was already bothering him coming into the game. Thankfully for Butler the Heat don’t play again until Tuesday.
Kawhi Leonard (mouth) — Kawhi caught an elbow to the head from his own teammate Serge Ibaka with 6:07 left in the game. He was bleeding out of his mouth and was in too much pain to finish the game. ESPN's Ohm Youngmisuk reported Leonard got eight stitches to close a mouth laceration. The Clippers next game is Sunday vs the Mavs so we’ll see what the status of Kawhi’s injury is and if it will cause him to miss the match.