Get ready for the NBA holiday hoop fest with Basketball Society’s Christmas Day roundtable.
Alec Walt – @AlecWalt
DJ Allen – @DJAllen23
Martin Soaries – @marsoaries
Ralph Cortes – @_rloading
Felix John-Baptiste – @twosmooth2
BJ Boyer – @wcboyer24
Kyle Allan – @kallan441
Celtics vs. Knicks
Does 50 combined points for Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis get the Knicks a win on Christmas?
Alec: Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis can combine for 50 or more and it won’t get the Knicks a win. If you look at the stats, Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley combine to score more points per game than Anthony and Porzingis. Even Boston’s secondary scorers, Jae Crowder and Al Horford, average more combined points than Derrick Rose and Courtney Lee. The Knicks need to play defense if they want to win Christmas afternoon.
DJ: I don’t believe 50 points would guarantee the Knicks a win but a more important factor to look at in my opinion is the production from the bench. When Brandon Jennings is orchestrating that second unit and they’re getting solid minutes from guys like Justin holiday and Lance Thomas, it gives the Knicks the best chance to win. Athough 50 points from those two guys would help, I think the bench’s scoring is more important.
The Knicks average 23.8 assists per game in wins this season. Can the Celtics hold them below their winning assist average?
Alec: The last time the Celtics and Knicks faced off, the Knicks posted 19 assists and 25 turnovers. On the Celtics recent winning streak, opponents averaged 21.8 assists and 16.8 turnovers per game. If the Knicks have more turnovers than assists Christmas day, they will lose. Brad Stevens uses Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder and Al Horford together to force turnovers. The Knicks should reach 23 assists Christmas day because it’ll be a close game, but turnovers will determine the outcome.
DJ: The Knicks assists numbers will be predicated on the mood of Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose. I think they have too much firepower offensively for the Celtics, but if Anthony and Rose want to be ball stoppers then sure the Celtics can hold them below that number. That’s why their bench works out so well at times because they operate within the flow of the offense and get good shots. So the question isn’t whether the Celtics will hold them below their assist average, but rather will Anthony and Rose hold them below their assist average.
Warriors vs. Cavs
Which duo wins the scoring battle: Curry/Durant or LeBron/Kyrie?
Ralph: LeBron and Kyrie have the better chance at winning the scoring battle because Cleveland might have to rely on them a little more down the stretch of the game. Golden State has a little more versatility than Cleveland with Klay and Draymond in addition to Steph/KD and that might cause them to spread the ball out more.
BJ: LeBron and Kyrie. We saw what type of performances games 4-7 of last year’s Finals necessitated from those two, and to me this contest is basically Game 8 of that epic series. LBJ and Kyrie will need to both have explosive offensive performances to contend with the Warriors, especially with J.R. Smith sidelined and their defense not in peak form yet.
Who’s a bigger x-factor in this matchup between Klay Thompson and Kevin Love?
Ralph: Klay Thompson is a bigger x-factor in this matchup over Kevin Love. If Steph and KD start hitting shots early, that might cause the Cavaliers to focus on the two more and give more leeway for Thompson, who then has a bigger responsibility of scoring for the Warriors. Aside from scoring, he must also keep up defensively since he is their team’s best perimeter defender.
BJ: Kevin Love. Klay Thompson could spend all afternoon clanking threes, but the presence of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green would temper a poor shooting performance from Thompson. Love needs to make Golden State respect him to alleviate the enormous amounts of pressure that is sure to be on LeBron and Kyrie.
Bulls vs. Spurs
Who needs to score 25+ points or more for their team to win: Kawhi or Jimmy?
Kyle: This is a tough one but it has to be Jimmy Butler. When it comes to the Bulls matching up with the Spurs, they are going to need a big game from both Butler and Wade. Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs are such a good defensive team, especially in the backcourt, that they don’t even need Kawhi to have a great offensive game.
Martin: Despite the recent regression I think the Bulls can make this into a scrappy game. If that’s to be the case, I see the Spurs needing Kawhi to have a big day to lead them. I think Jimmy has more help in Wade and Rondo to produce a big day with their experience on this stage, but in order to beat anyone the Bulls need at least two of those guys to play well.
Which center’s skill deficiency will have a greater impact to their Christmas Day matchup, Robin Lopez’s offense or Pau Gasol’s defense?
Kyle: Robin Lopez’s offense. I say this because the Bulls will need points from everybody in order for them to pull this game out. Pau Gasol does lack on the defensive end, but besides that, the Spurs still play some of the best defense in the league, so you can expect some help from the bench on that front. In order for the Bulls to see success, they need some help from the front court because their guards will be just fine.
Martin: Gasol’s defense has an impact on the Spurs’ potential as contenders, not just in this game. San Antonio’s Defensive Rating goes from 105.2 when Gasol is on the floor down to 97.5 when he’s off the floor, per NBA.com/stats. The Bulls rank fourth in percentage of points scored in the paint. They can thrive if they aren’t stopped in the paint, so Gasol’s presence on that end will have more of an impact than Lopez’s offense in this game.
T’Wolves vs. Thunder
With their recently shown lack of ability to close games, will the Christmas Day stage be too big to overcome for the young T-Wolves?
Alec: The stage will be too big to overcome for the young Timberwolves. They’re going up against MVP favorite Russell Westbrook who leads the NBA in triple doubles and fourth quarter points. When games are close, Westbrook stretches leads for the Thunder. The Timberwolves are on the rose, but they don’t have a finisher yet. They’ll learn how to win close games, but not on Christmas day against Russell Westbrook.
Felix: If Roberson sticks it out against LaVine, and Adams covers KAT, look for Andrew Wiggins to have a big game. Overall, the performance from the young studs in Minnesota should shine through the Christmas Day stage. However, it does seem that the national spotlight might be too bright to finish the deal. Expect a close game in which Russell Westbrook takes over in the 4th quarter. Russ has been spectacular on the biggest of stages. Combine that with Minny being a bottom 10 team in defending point guards, and you have a recipe for disaster down the stretch. TRIPLE. DOUBLE. ALERT.
What kind of performance will it take from Russell Westbrook to win this game?
Alec: Russell Westbrook needs to play like Russell Westbrook to win this game. Westbrook plays explosive on a nightly basis, and he’ll need that explosiveness to beat the Timberwolves. He’ll need to post a triple double with Victor Oladipo out, but he averages one per game this season already. The Timberwolves struggle on defense so Westbrook will have plenty of opportunities to exploit their weaknesses. Christmas day is set for Westbrook to shine.
Felix: As said in the aforementioned question, anticipate a triple double from Russell Westbrook. Although he may achieve this feat, it won’t be exactly necessary to overcome the T-Wolves. A stat line in the vicinity of 28/9/7 should be enough to come out victorious. A birdie tells me Steven Adams should see more touches in the post to go right at the KAT/Dieng combo. Expect big games from them both.
Clippers vs. Lakers
Will the Lakers need to rely more on their starters or their bench to win this game?
DJ: I believe its a culmination of both. With a young team like the Lakers with no clear cut go-to guy, a well balanced game is needed for each and every win. Their bench has been incredible and one of the best in the league but they still need the starters to contribute just as much if they have any chance of winning.
Boyer: With the Clippers’ superstars taking a whack in terms of health (Chris Paul’s tender hamstring, Blake Griffin’s bum knee), their depth becomes of the upmost importance. That’s one area where the Lakers best almost everyone in the league, and they’ll need almost 50 points from their second unit to win this edition of the Battle of Los Angeles.
Does the loss of Blake Griffin open the door for an upset?
DJ: The loss of Blake Griffin is huge and definitely proposes a better chance of an upset happening. Blake was their leader in scoring and a huge factor in their offense and without him, everyone else is going to have to step up. This is a good opportunity for the Lakers to take advantage of the Griffin-less Clippers. With Blake out, a lot of the defensive focus can go on Chris Paul. He has no choice but to look to score more often and if you can take that away from him, your chances of winning will surely increase.
Boyer: The door was ajar to me before, so Griffin’s injury cracks it open even more. I’m a little worried about the duo of Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan terrorizing the Lakers, but their bench can tilt this one in their favor. What’s key for Los Angeles is manning the paint and preventing Jordan from having an interior field day, and the onus is on D’Angelo Russell to stop Chris Paul. He hasn’t fared well in that practice so far in his career, so let’s see if Christmas is the day that changes.