The past year was a good one for LeBron James and the Miami Heat. Championships. Rings. Respect. Fear. They hogged all the goodies. Christmas day was no different. Yesterday’s NBA Finals rematch in Miami between the Heat and Thunder was a rugged, physical battle. The refs were letting them play from the jump, and the physicality and a lack of superstar whistles got to the big names early. Both LeBron and Kevin Durant (33 points) were hit with techs in the first quarter when they didn’t get calls after getting roughed up (One of the calls was a personal foul on LeBron for hacking Serge Ibaka on a dunk attempt in the first quarter. It was ‘Bron’s first foul in six games.). … LeBron was a monster the entire game (29 points, nine assists, eight boards), and his first half sidekick wasn’t Dwyane Wade (21 points) or Chris Bosh. Mario Chalmers had 12 in the first quarter – matching his season high for a game. He finished with 20 on the night … The game was tight throughout the second half, but you could feel the Heat asserting control. They were running good offense, getting themselves solid looks or letting ‘Bron go to work (Multiple possessions saw Kendrick Perkins guarding James. That did not work out well for OKC.). Every Thunder possession had some sort of desperate, difficult, circus feel to it. If KD didn’t manufacture a tough bucket on his own, the possession seemed to fizzle out with a wild Russell Westbrook look. Not a way to beat the Heat, and Miami held on, 103-97 … With 11 minutes to go in the game, Westbrook (21 points, 11 rebounds, a lot of “bad” Russell Westbrook in the second half) was taken out by Wade and Shane Battier on a fast break dunk attempt. Russ jumped up like he was ready for the bell to ring, and had to stop himself from charging into the cameramen to get at Battier … Did you see Westbrook’s kicks yesterday? The unique Air Jordan XX8 colorway looks like it’ll be one of the most love/hate drops we’ve seen in a while. Yet it wasn’t even the best sneaker in the game – Ray Allen‘s Christmas XVIIIs were incredible … If you’ve ever wanted to watch surgery performed live, the Clippers held a clinic after nearing losing a 19-point lead. A 112-100 win over the Nuggets, L.A.’s 14th straight, came out of this stretch. The lead down to nine, Willie Green busted two threes on consecutive possessions. Jamal Crawford (22 points) – whose first half was spent rocking Andre Miller to sleep – kept the rally going when Blake Griffin (13 points) slipped an assist to Crawford between two defenders for the hoop and the harm. One possession later, Chris Paul snuck into the paint and hit Matt Barnes (20 points) with a no-look backdoor cut for an and-one. Then Paul walked over to the left three-point wing and drilled a bomb to beat the third-quarter buzzer. The first half was fun, but another win came in that final four minutes of the third and the Clips’ response … Best new commercial: Blake Griffin’s new Kia Optima joint? Or Cliff Paul? … Keep reading to hear about how the Lakers solved the Knicks’ offensive riddle …
Move over Oscar Robertson. Kobe Bryant is now the all-time leading Christmas scorer. On the scale of “records that matter,” that one registers maybe a two or a three, and Kobe was probably more satisfied knowing he out-dueled Carmelo Anthony (34 points) on Christmas as the Lakers won their fifth straight game, 100-94 over New York. Bryant shot 14-for-24 and scored 34 points, many of them coming on repeated right hand drives over Raymond Felton in a game-changing third quarter run. Anthony countered with laser jumpers in the second half, pulling up with or without the dribble from all over the floor. He was particularly unstoppable during the third quarter, where he scored a dozen points in the first six minutes without even hitting the net. But in the closing minutes, Steve “Zoolander” Nash (16 points, 11 assists) carved up New York off the high screen-n-roll with Dwight Howard (14 points, 12 boards), and then Pau Gasol (13 points, eight rebounds) locked up New York’s coffin with a two-handed sledgehammer … Metta World Peace (20 points) stole Zoolander’s jumper, then went out and dropped 16 in the second frame. He was offset by J.R. Smith‘s 15 points in the first half (he’d finish with 25), many of them coming because he was using screens so well … Kevin Ding reported that Kobe dropped off green bags in every one of his teammates’ lockers with the message “From: Kobe … Merry Xmas 2012.” Wonder what was in there? … Spotted in the crowd: Richard Lewis, Rihanna, Chris Brown, and a Lakers fan dressed up as Jesus. Or maybe it was just Pau Gasol … All we wanted out of the holiday’s first action was a ball-measuring matchup between two of the best point guards in the league. Instead, we watched Rajon Rondo (19 points) gobble up loose balls, hit jumpers, and generally make plays all over the court while Deron Williams (10 points, seven shots) acted like he was still at home sipping on some cider and opening presents. The battle between the lead guards never materialized in Boston’s 93-76 shellacking of the Nets. The game wasn’t very pretty, but in the third quarter, it was downright appalling. Ugly collisions. Heinous jump shots. Players on both sides fumbling the basketball. Unless you enjoyed defense – like the time Andray Blatche sent Paul Pierce‘s dunk attempt back in his face, and then took off down the court in the first dead sprint of his career – you probably turned this one off and went back to mowing down Christmas cookies … The only real drama came in the fourth quarter when (again) Gerald Wallace (15 points) and Kevin Garnett started arguing over who’s more country. Crash grabbed a hold of KG’s shorts to keep his balance because of a wild drive to the rim, and then of course, Garnett overreacted and we almost had another Nets/Celtics brouhaha … We got our first look of the day at the new Christmas day uniforms everyone was wearing yesterday. Brooklyn’s were hot. It felt like the Nets were wearing all-gray denim jerseys. On the other hand, Boston’s unis were hot garbage, like a green St. Patty’s day shirt with beer stains all over it … So much for our prediction that Chicago would put the clamps on James Harden and Houston. Instead, the Bulls got run off the floor in their own building, 120-97. Harden, Jeremy Lin, Omer Asik and Chandler Parsons all had over 20 points, and the Bulls completely fell off in the third quarter as Houston’s offense turned the Bulls into mere traffic cones. Not even 27 off the bench from Nate Robinson could save them … And did you catch the day’s best sneakers? If you missed them, we have you covered … We’re out like Houston’s X-Mas uniforms.
Follow Dime Magazine on Twitter
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook