Tune-In Tidbits: NBA on Christmas Day 2017
For the 10th straight season, Christmas Day features five NBA games including a third straight Finals rematch between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers. Get ready for all the action with five stats about each matchup, beginning with the New York Knicks hosting the Philadelphia 76ers. This will be the Knicks’ 52nd appearance on Christmas Day, the most of any team in NBA history.
Philadelphia 76ers (14-18) at New York Knicks (17-15), 12 ET, ESPN
- The Sixers enter Christmas Day having lost five straight and nine of their last 10 after opening the season 13-8. In their last 10 games, the Sixers are allowing 112.3 points per game - the second-highest mark of any team over the past 10 games.
- The Knicks are 15-5 at home compared to just 2-10 on the road. That 13-win disparity is the largest in the NBA this season. The Knicks will host the Sixers at Madison Square Garden, where they average 107.8 points per game, compared to just 98.2 away from the Garden.
- Joel Embiid is one of only three players to average at least 20 points, 10 rebounds and three assists per game, joining Giannis Antetokounmpo and DeMarcus Cousins. Embiid leads this group with 2.0 blocks per game, while playing four fewer minutes per game than Cousins and nearly seven fewer minutes than Giannis.
- How good is Sixers rookie Ben Simmons? He is one of only three players in the NBA to average at least 17 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. The other two: four-time MVP LeBron James and reigning MVP Russell Westbrook.
- Which team will be able to dictate the pace in this matchup? The Sixers play at the second-fastest pace (103.41 possessions per 48 minutes), while the Knicks are 19th at 98.46.
Cleveland Cavaliers (24-9) at Golden State Warriors (26-7), 3 ET, ABC
- The Cavaliers and Warriors are meeting for the third straight year on Christmas Day in a rematch of the previous season’s Finals. In the first two meetings the champion won the Christmas Day meeting with the Warriors defeating the Cavs 89-83 (to improve to 28-1!) in 2015 and the Cavs edging the Warriors 109-108 thanks to Kyrie Irving’s game-winning in 2016.
- Stephen Curry has yet to play since suffering an ankle injury on Dec. 4 and will miss this Christmas Day matchup. The Warriors have gone 7-1 in his absence, outscoring teams by an average of 5.9 points. Kevin Durant has averaged 30.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 2.9 blocks and 2.6 3-pointers during those eight games.
- This matchup features two of the top three teams in both true shooting percentage - Warriors 1st (60.7), Cavaliers third (59.9) - and offensive efficiency - Warriors 2nd (112.4), Cavaliers third (111.9).
- The separation comes on the defensive end, where the Warriors rank second in the league (100.9 DefRtg) and the Cavs rank 27th (108.5). The Warriors are the only team in the top five in both offensive and defensive efficiency, which is key to them leading all teams in net rating (point differential per 100 possessions) at 11.6. Cavs are fifth at 3.4.
- With their last two Christmas Day meetings decided by a total of seven points, expect another close game down the stretch this year. In 75 minutes of clutch play (last five minutes, score within five points) this season, the Cavaliers have outscored their opponents by 52 points - the highest mark in the league. The Warriors are plus-37 in their 56 minutes of clutch play this season.
Washington Wizards (18-15) at Boston Celtics (27-9), 5:30 ET, ABC
- After going 19-4 through October and November, the Celtics are 8-5 in December despite shooting their best percentages from the field and from beyond the arc as a team.
- On offense, the Celtics are attempting just 18.5 free throws per game in December, which is 5.1 fewer attempts than during the first six weeks of the season (23.6 in October and November).
- On defense, the Celtics rating has grown from 95.6 in October (7 games) to 99.6 in November (16 games) and up to 104.7 in December (13 games). While their overall defensive rating for the entire season (100.7) still leads the league, their current level of defense (104.7) would rank 12th.
- The Wizards lead the league in screen assists - screen set for a teammate that directly leads to a made field goal by that teammate - thanks in large part to the efforts of Marcin Gortat, who leads all players with 5.2 screen assists per game. Gortat recently spoke with NBA.com’s John Schuhmann about the art of setting good screens.
- The Wizards are 8.1 points per 100 possessions better with Bradley Beal on the court (plus-4.1) compared to when he’s off the court (minus-4.0) - the largest margin of any player on the team. Al Horford leads the Celtics with a 12.5-point differential.
Houston Rockets (25-6) at Oklahoma City Thunder (18-15), 8 ET, ABC
- James Harden has posted back-to-back 51-point performances, but the Rockets have lost both games. According to Elias, Harden joined Wilt Chamberlain as the only players in NBA history to score at least 50 points in consecutive games with their team losing each contest.
- There have been 13 45+ point scoring performances in the NBA this season. James Harden has five of those games, while no other player has more than one. Harden has five of the top seven scoring games in the NBA this season.
- The Thunder enter Christmas Day riding a season-high four-game win streak. During the streak, Russell Westbrook leads the team in scoring at 29.8 points per game, followed by Paul George (17.3) and Carmelo Anthony (15.5). Westbrook is also averaging 9.5 assists and 9.0 rebounds and shooting 59.8 percent from the field during this run.
- Westbrook recorded his 11th triple-double of the season in OKC’s win over Utah on Saturday. The Thunder are 9-2 this season when Westbrook gets a triple-double, including winning the last five such games. The Thunder are now 75-15 (.833) when Westbrook has posted a triple-double for his career.
- Westbrook has 90 triple-doubles for his career - the fourth most all-time behind Jason Kidd (107), Magic Johnson (138) and Oscar Robertson (181). If Westbrook maintains his current pace (one triple-double every three games) and plays all 82 games, he would be one triple-double shy of catching Kidd this season.
The Thunder (10.0) and Rockets (9.1) rank first and second, respectively, in steals per game this season with Paul George (2.6) and Russell Westbrook (2.1) leading the way individually. OKC is second to Toronto in points scored off turnovers (19.8 per game); Houston is fourth (18.7).
Minnesota Timberwolves (20-13) at Los Angeles Lakers (11-20), 10:30 ET, TNT
- The Timberwolves enter Christmas Day riding a three-game win streak and have won four of their last five games. During that span, the Wolves are averaging 112.0 points (4th among all teams’ last five games), shooting 48.5 percent from the field (4th) and committing just 10.0 turnovers (1st) per game.
- Kyle Kuzma ranks third among rookies in scoring at 16.0 points per game. He’s scored at least 20 points in four of his last five games, including a career-best 38-point effort in L.A.’s win over Houston on Dec. 20.
- The Lakers play at the fastest pace in the league (104.51 possessions per 48 minutes), while the Wolves rank in the bottom third of the league with a pace of 98.16.
- Karl-Anthony Towns leads all players with 26 double-doubles this season. He is one of just two players (along with DeMarcus Cousins) to average at least 20 points, 10 rebounds, one block and one 3-pointer made per game.
- The Lakers lead the NBA in points in the paint (53.8 per game), with an NBA-high 22.8 field goals made per game within five feet of the basket. The Timberwolves allow the highest opponent field goal percentage at the rim with teams shooting 68.6 percent at the basket with a Minnesota defender in the vicinity.