On Christmas Day 2018, the stage was set. All throughout the NBA, the eyes would be on the teams lucky enough to play on a special day. Christmas Day has seen legendary showings from LeBron James, to Kobe Bryant, to Patrick Ewing and Michael Jordan, just to name a few.
This year there may not have been any special commemorative jerseys but, there were a handful of stellar performances from some of the NBA’s biggest stars. It is safe to say that these ten players, definitely made the nice list this year.
10. Kristaps Porzingis
Kristaps Porzingis put on another dominant display on Christmas Day. The Latvian big man scored an impressive 22 points along with 7 rebounds. However, Porzingis’ most impressive stat of the day just might have been his 5 blocks. We have become very accustom to Porzingis putting on a show on the offensive end but on Monday, his defense was also very impressive.
Although Porzingis’ showing may be outdone by Enes Kanter’s historic game, he opens our list for a job well done in a losing effort to Philadelphia.
9. Kyrie Irving
Kyrie Irving and the Boston Celtics came into Monday’s game looking to get a big win over the Washington Wizards. Unfortunately for the Celtics, things did not go as planned and the team fell by a score of 111-108. Kyrie Irving however, put in another solid performance. In a big-time matchup against fellow All-Star point guard John Wall, Irving scored 20 points and added 5 assists.
While Irving’s showing may not have been as dominant as many expected, he was still able to add another 20 point tally to his resume thus far. At 27-10, Kyrie and the Celtics should have no trouble shaking this one off and getting back in the win column.
8. Kyle Kuzma
With Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram out for the Lakers’ Christmas Day tilt with the Minnesota Timberwolves, a lot of responsibility fell on Kyle Kuzma. The rookie did not disappoint in his Christmas debut and continued to look more like a season veteran rather than a first-year pro. In his last five games, Kuzma has scored 18 or more points and scored a team-high 31 points on Monday evening.
With every passing game, Kyle Kuzma is looking more and more like one of the biggest steals of the 2017 NBA Draft as well as, a very solid candidate for the Rookie of the Year award. In a losing effort to the Timberwolves, Kuzma continued to show signs of becoming an even bigger star in the near future. With one more 30 point game in the books for Kuzma, he is proving to be another second-round steal for the Lakers.
7. Joel Embiid
In his NBA Christmas debut, Joel Embiid did not shy away from the spotlight. Playing at Madison Square Garden is always special and getting to do so on Christmas day might just raise the stakes. Embiid dominated early on and did not let up from coast to coast. Many 76ers fans may have been holding their breath when Embiid landed hard on his injured back after a foul from Jarrett Jack, the back seemed to be fine.
Embiid finished the day with 25 points along with 16 rebounds for the double-double. On a day where Ben Simmons and Dario Saric were relatively quiet from the field, Embiid stepped up in a massive way. Getting the win also snapped a five-game losing skid for the 76ers. It is safe to say that Joel Embiid can be added to the list of stellar performances at Madison Square Garden on Christmas Day.
6. John Wall
Monday’s Celtics vs Wizards matinee feature a matchup between two of the best point guards in the NBA; John Wall and Kyrie Irving. The Wizards and Celtics have developed such a hatred for each other that everytime the two teams square off you know you are in for a treat. Moving back to the Irving vs Wall matchup, it is safe to say that the victory goes to John Wall this time.
Wall finished the day with 21 points along with 14 assists for a very impressive double-double. Wall’s statement performance helped lead the Wizards to what many are calling an upset victory over a Celtics team that has been very hot as of late. The 14 assists that Wall dished out were not only a game-high but, they also contributed in part to both Otto Porter Jr. as well as, Bradley Beal scoring 20 and 25 points respectively. At 19-15, this huge victory could give Wall and the Wizards the momentum they need to start climbing up the Eastern Conference standings.
5. James Harden
After having their 14 game win streak snapped, James Harden and the Houston Rockets were looking to get back into the win column. As of late, Harden himself had been on an absurd individual tear. Harden was coming off of two 50 point scoring outbursts heading to Monday’s tilt with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Perhaps the fact that Houston was on a two-game losing skid would motivate Harden to once again put on another scoring clinic. With 29 points and 14 assists Harden would once notch the double-double but, the Houston Rockets would end up losing to the Thunder.
Houston’s Christmas Day loss to Oklahoma City marks another great game from James Harden in which, the Rockets could not come out on top with the victory. Houston’s losing streak has now been extended to three games and we are left to wonder just how many points will James Harden need to score before Houston wins another basketball game?
4. Russell Westbrook
Russell Westbrook may not be averaging the crazy numbers that lead to his MVP win last year but, he once again proved why he is the league’s reigning Most Valuable Player. As of late, the Oklahoma City Thunder are finally starting to pick up the slack. The team has recently undergone much scrutiny for not being more dominant but, after winning their previous four games, Oklahoma City might just be getting started. Monday’s matchup between the Rockets and Thunder is a potential preview of what is to come in the 2018 NBA Playoffs.
On Christmas Day, Russell Westbrook got the last laugh over his former teammate James Harden. Not only did the Thunder come away with another impressive victory to extended their winning streak to five games but, Westbrook scored a game-high 31 points. Along with his offensive explosion, the reigning MVP would add 11 assists for his fourth straight double-double. With another impressive game in the books, do not count on Westbrook and the Thunder to let up anytime soon.
3. Draymond Green
Thank goodness Draymond Green is back from injury. Green brings such a high-level intensity to the game of basketball and quite frankly, it makes the Warriors so much better. On Christmas Day, Green was in fine form. He was trash talking, barking orders on defense and was voicing his support for his teammates. The NBA’s gift to the fans was micing up Green for the game which, never fails to disappoint. In an important victory against the Cleveland Cavaliers it was Draymond Green who would have the NBA’s only Christmas Day triple-double.
Green scored 12 points, grabbed rebounds and, dished out 11 assists. With Steph Curry out, Draymond did a pretty good job of playing the role of a point guard and did an even better job of containing LeBron James en route to victory.
With 12 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists, Draymond Green becomes the sixth player in NBA history to record a triple-double on Christmas Day, joining Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, Billy Cunningham, John Havlicek and Oscar Robertson.
2. Kevin Love
The potential NBA Finals preview between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers did not disappoint. Coming off a close win against the Chicago Bulls, Love and the Cavaliers were looking for another Christmas Day victory. Coming into Monday’s game, the former Minnesota Timberwolf had scored 20 or more points in three straight games. Love would add to his impressive streak with a massive 31 point outburst. Love also added 18 rebounds and shot a nice 54% from three-point land.
Love’s big day would not translate into a victory that the Cavaliers fought so hard to steal from the Warriors on their home court. The 29-year old also finished two rebounds shy of becoming just the fourth player to ever score 30 points and grab 20 rebounds on Christmas Day.
1. Enes Kanter
If you thought Enes Kanter would steal the show on Christmas Day well, you must be psychic. Many expected Kristaps Porzingis, Ben Simmons or even, Joel Embiid to be the star of the Knicks vs 76ers matchup. While all of the previously mentioned players played very well on Monday, none had the performance quite like Enes Kanter. It is honestly a shame that the New York Knicks could not come away with the victory on Kanter’s historic day as it would have made everything so much better. Kanter scored 31 points and absolutely dominated the glass with 22 rebounds en route to the best individual performance of Christmas Day of 2018.
At a time in his life where he may be potentially facing arrest back in his home nation of Turkey, Kanter’s monster showing has certainly got to feel good for himself and those close to him.
Kanter also joins elite company as he became just the third player ever to record 30 or more points as well as 20 or more rebounds on Christmas Day. The 25-year-old will now be forever etched in the record books alongside the likes of Wilt Chamberlain as well as, the equally legendary Bill Russell.