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NBA Christmas Day takeaways: Nets’ Kevin Durant is back in MVP form; Warriors have big problems

This 12 months’s NBA Christmas Day slate was like seeing an enormous field ready for you beneath the tree solely to discover a bunch of socks inside.

The 5 video games scheduled for Dec. 25 featured main stars and storylines, however three of these contests had been determined by 23 factors or extra, together with the Bucks’ 138-99 shellacking of the Warriors in Milwaukee. The Clippers and Warmth every received their matchups by “solely” 13 factors. A few barnburners!

So what did we actually study concerning the groups that performed on Christmas Day? Let’s dive into every sport.

MORE: Why LeBron James sees himself in Luka Doncic

Warmth might have discovered one other hidden gem in Valuable Achiuwa

The reward of “Warmth Tradition” can really feel overblown at instances, nevertheless it’s exhausting to argue with Miami’s skill to develop gamers. Bam Adebayo, Duncan Robinson, Tyler Herro — there may be loads of proof right here.

It seems just like the Warmth have found yet one more promising prospect in 2020 first-round choose Valuable Achiuwa. The 21-year-old ahead totaled 11 factors, three rebounds, two assists and one block in 19 minutes off the bench Friday afternoon. His excessive motor and athleticism had been on full show.

Achiuwa additionally wasn’t utterly misplaced when remoted in opposition to Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson. In actual fact, he did a terrific job of staying in entrance of each Ingram and Williamson with out fouling, no simple activity for a rookie enjoying in solely his second common season sport.

“I have been impressed with [Achiuwa] from the leap, simply because he works so exhausting, no matter you ask him to do to one of the best of his skill, he’ll do it,” Heat forward Jimmy Butler said after Miami’s season opener. “And he desires to win. What else are you able to ask from a younger fella? What else are you able to ask from a rookie? And I feel that he is purported to be snug.

“Like I stated about everyone, ‘You belong right here. You belong with the Miami Warmth. They drafted you for a motive, so get used to it.’ And I feel he’ll be an enormous assist to us in what we’re making an attempt to do shifting ahead.”

Positive, it is very early in Achiuwa’s profession, nevertheless it would not be that stunning to see him turn into a constant a part of Erik Spoelstra’s rotation.

Is Golden State simply . . . not a superb workforce?

Only some days faraway from a brutal loss to the Nets, Stephen Curry and the Warriors did not even give the Bucks a problem. What’s the issue, Steph?

Yep, not nice. Golden State’s level differential of minus-65 by two video games is the second-worst mark in NBA historical past, per ESPN Stats and InfoAs Sporting News’ Dan Bernstein noted, Kelly Oubre Jr. and Andrew Wiggins have been significantly unhealthy, capturing a mixed 14 of 58 on area objectives (24.1 p.c) and a couple of of 21 on 3-pointers (9.5 p.c).

Context is required, after all. Klay Thompson is out for the season. Draymond Inexperienced has but to take the ground this season. Curry is shaking off the rust. These are actually not the “Demise Lineup” Warriors.

Nonetheless, Golden State did not enter this season believing it might be a lottery workforce. The Warriors wish to attain the playoffs. They have quite a lot of work to do.

Kevin Durant seems quite a bit like Kevin Durant

Remember that time a reporter asked Clippers guards Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams what they may have accomplished to gradual Kevin Durant down after he dropped 50 factors on them? Do you bear in mind how they responded?

“I imply, he is Kevin Durant,” Beverley stated.

“I promise we tried,” Williams added.

Effectively, that dude is again. Durant scored 29 factors on 9-of-16 capturing because the Nets cruised to a simple victory over the Celtics. He caught fireplace within the third quarter, hitting his first 5 pictures and placing poor Tristan Thompson within the torture chamber.

Durant is not the one motive why Brooklyn might be an actual title contender. Kyrie Irving seems to be again to 100% after enjoying in solely 20 video games final season, and Steve Nash’s squad is deep with expertise at a number of positions. Defending the Nets is a nightmare.

However a peak KD can elevate this workforce’s ceiling in a method that none of his teammates can. I imply, he is Kevin Durant.

Mavericks have to get higher on the boards

Second-chance factors: Lakers 35, Mavericks 0. It is the primary time Dallas has completed a sport with no second-chance factors since February 2017. Each Mavs coach Rick Carlisle and guard Luka Doncic agreed that differential was the main culprit in the loss.

“I do not suppose I’ve ever seen a sport the place the workforce has given up 35 factors on second-chance and [the other team] obtained to zero,” Carlisle stated. “It is clearly the story of the sport. We discuss being in a hit-first mode, and we simply weren’t.”

The Lakers almost doubled the Mavericks in whole rebounds (53-27) and dominated on the offensive glass (17-3). Maxi Kleber led Dallas with 5 rebounds. Los Angeles had six completely different gamers pull down at the least six rebounds. The Mavericks had been additionally out-rebounded in a season-opening loss to the Suns (48-39). These numbers are usually not superb.

Sure, Kristaps Porzingis is out as he works his method again from a knee damage, however this is a matter that will not be fastened by the return of 1 participant.

The brand new guys are making an influence for Clippers

Paul George and Kawhi Leonard will understandably obtain many of the consideration when the Clippers are on nationwide TV, however let’s give the supporting forged a bit of credit score.

Nicolas Batum (13 factors, 10 rebounds, 4 assists), Serge Ibaka (15 factors on 6-of-9 capturing) and Luke Kennard (eight factors, six rebounds, two assists) every contributed to LA’s Christmas Day win over Denver. The Clippers doubtless anticipated Ibaka and Kennard contributing all through the season, however Batum’s early emergence has been a pleasant shock.

Clippers coach Tyronn Lue is happy concerning the versatility the 32-year-old presents on each ends.

“I am very impressed. He simply is aware of the best way to play the sport,” Lue said of Batum earlier this week. “Very sensible, very cerebral, understanding what is going on on. … And he is one in every of our greatest passers. So we will play him on the elbows. We are able to put him in pick-and-rolls. After which together with his size and measurement, being 6-9, we will swap one by 4.”

Nobody will care a lot about how the Clippers carry out in December. That is simply the way in which it really works within the NBA when a workforce has championship expectations — and when a workforce blew a 3-1 lead in embarrassing vogue.

With that stated, the Clippers have to be pleased with how their offseason acquisitions have meshed with the remainder of the group.

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