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What We Learned During the NBA Christmas Marathon

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

OKC rolled, the Knicks and Nets are in trouble, and the Christmas Day uniforms should be burned.

What We Learned During the NBA Christmas Marathon

• The Oklahoma City Thunder had the most dominating performance of any NBA team on Christmas Day when they beat the New York Knicks 123-94, but that was to be expected. The Knicks announced early in the day they would be without leading scorer Carmelo Anthony, still out after he suffered a sprained ankle during Monday's win against Orlando. The Knicks were already missing point guards Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni plus forward Metta World Peace, so the roster was already at a disadvantage.

The Thunder didn't mess around, quickly turning a six-point lead after the first quarter into a 14-point lead with an 8-0 run to start the second. Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka scored at will while Russell Westbrook facilitated with ease. Westbrook attained a triple-double halfway through the third quarter. The Knicks simply couldn't match the machine-like efficiency of the Thunder on either end, allowing easy drives into the lane and open looks while settling for contested threes and forced looks on offense. 

• Like their rivals across the East River, the Brooklyn Nets are also mired in losing ways. That continued yesterday when the Chicago Bulls took down the Nets 95-78. Just like the Knicks, the Nets have been plagued by injuries this year. Leading scorer Brook Lopez is done for the season after fracturing his foot. Deron Williams, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett have all missed time at points this year. The team has never had the chance to gel, and it's also clear that the gamble they took on a lot of the veterans isn't paying off. Pierce is as ineffective as he's been in his entire career, Garnett isn't the same player and Jason Terry is very much washed up. The team is pretty much in shambles.

The Bulls, on the other hand, still play fierce without Derrick Rose. Tom Thibodeau always has his guys ready to play, and he gets great production from role players like Taj Gibson, DJ Augustin on a nightly basis. 

• LeBron James very athletic and is pretty good at basketball. The two dunks he gets off alley oops from Dwayne Wade should be all the evidence you need, with the second dunk serving as definitive proof:

Seriously, the ability to react to that pass, catch it wide with his off hand and still finish with a powerful flush? That's incredible. 

But the Los Angeles Lakers continue to impress me. This is a very imperfect roster, but Mike D'Antoni knows how to maximize talent. The kind of production he's been able to get out of guys like Jodie Meeks, Jordan Hill, Xavier Henry and Shawne Williams (again) is astounding. Los Angeles would be a five-seed in the Eastern Conference, and they are a thorn in the side of Western Conference opponents. It might not be pretty, but the Lakers do play hard and seem to just excite me by competing every night. The fact that they were so competitive with the Miami Heat yesterday (they only lost 101-95) shows how tough they are.

• The Houston Rockets have enough talent to win it all this year, but they have to show enough consistency first. They beat the San Antonio-Spurs 111-98 yesterday, and the score looks lopsided, but they led 40-25 after the first quarter. Houston let the lead slip down all the way to 3 points early in the fourth quarter. While they were eventually able to hold off the Spurs and then stretch things out late, they almost let this slip away.

Still, everything that makes the Rockets dangerous was on display last night. They had incredibly balanced scoring (28 from James Harden, 21 apiece from Chandler Parsons and Terrence Jones, 15 from Dwight Howard and 13 from Jeremy Lin), long-range shooting (12-24 from three), and a strong interior presence (20 rebounds for Howard, 14 for Jones and 9 blocks as a team). They have to shoot free throws at a higher clip and maybe add some more interior depth (either get Omer Asik to come around or trade him for someone that will back up Howard) and this team could easily make noise in the Western Conference.

• Whenever I see the Golden State Warriors play, they always seem to end up in a close game. They have played in eight games decided by four or fewer points in their last 16 contests, so they are getting their fill of crunch-time minutes in. That was the case again last night in their 105-103 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clips were riding a five-game winning streak, but Stephen Curry helped snap that (as well as a Blake Griffin ejection early in the fourth quarter). I don't know how much we can take from this game. Both of these teams will be there at the end of the year and they are pretty evenly matched. The Warriors just came out on top here.

• Whatever you want to call those awful uniforms the NBA trotted out last night, they should be burned and never spoken of again. Those things were absolutely hideous and more of an eye sore than anything else.

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