LeBron and the Cavaliers beat the Warriors on Christmas. Did it even matter?

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We’re all now past the massive, Christmas Day mega-match up between the Cavaliers and the Warriors. It was the game we were all anticipating, one that resulted in a close, 109-108 victory for Cleveland under — dare I say — dubious circumstances. That’s all that mattered, right?

Or did we find out a little more about some of the playoff-expectant teams that took to the floor on Sunday? What can we glean from the NBA’s holiday tradition as we reach the milepost that is Christmas in the association?

Let’s talk about some of the takeaways from Sunday’s match ups and what direction teams may need to head as we breach through to 2017.

Watch the video above or read the breakdown below.

The Boston Celtics need to be better on defense

The Boston Celtics defense looked bad against the New York Knicks, a squad whose offense has improved this year but that Boston allowed an offensive rating of 120 on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Derrick Rose — yes, that Derrick Rose — dropped 25 points while Joakim Noah was allowed to grab 12 rebounds.

New York now stands with an offense ranked 12th in the NBA, and the Celtics with the 18th-worst defense. Brad Stevens’ squad gave up 17 points more to Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks than they do on average for the season, and coupled with their rebounding troubles, the team that many picked to be their No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference appears to have a couple fatal flaws come playoff time.

There’s a reason the Celtics are third in the East but are closer to the middle of the pack than they are to the Toronto Raptors and the Cavaliers.

We were reminded of that on Christmas.

The Los Angeles Clippers can’t stay healthy

The Los Angeles Clippers lost to the team across the hallway, dropping their Christmas Day game to the Los Angeles Lakers, 111-102, after playing without Chris Paul or Blake Griffin.

Their hot start to the season has been slowly dipped into an ice bath, and LA is now in the same situation as Boston in that they’re closer to the teams below them than they are to clawing their way to the top of the West.

Is it too early to say no more parties in LA? I think so, but it can’t feel great if you’re a Clippers fan right now and any notion that team could overcome their infamous durability issues this year is gone.

A lot of us thought the Clippers may have found their answer this year, and perhaps they are taking their injuries to major players early so they can get them out of the way. The Basketball Gods are mysterious in their ways, but at this point Los Angeles is dangerously teetering back toward who they’ve been in years past.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have more to work on than the Warriors

If Cavaliers-Warriors taught us anything, it’s that Draymond Green is never going to stop getting techs in huge games, something he confirmed to media on Tuesday.

When it came to the game we most wanted to ignore family members for on Christmas Day, it seems like we did learn a little something actually related to basketball: LeBron James and the Cavaliers shut down the Warriors from 3-point land, then forced them into 19 turnovers en route to their herky-jerky win.

You might be telling yourself that Golden State can watch some tape from that to learn what Cleveland did defensively. And you’d be right! Sort of.

Then again, pace, adjustments, and even officiating can play a big role come playoff time. Things are different in the spring, and one game in December isn’t giving one team the edge.

That’s too bad, mostly for Cleveland.

Because of some busted calls by the boys with whistles, we’ve sort of overlooked the fact that the Cavaliers shot 39 percent from the field on Christmas Day, only had three points in transition, didn’t stop Golden State on the break, and either lost or drew even when it came to points in the paint and rebounding.

Golden State did a lot of the things they normally do well enough, and the Cavaliers know they were one missed trip away from losing that game. All that being said, it’s likely Cleveland — not the Warriors — that should be wondering how to beat their opponent next time out.

Oh and we’ll get to soon, my friends. The Warriors and the Cavaliers play again on national TV on Jan. 16.

Will it matter then?

Probably not, but damn if I’m not ready to see them duke it out again as a potential 2017 NBA Finals preview.

Wizards’ players-only meeting doesn’t go well

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The concept of a “team meeting” is sort of silly. At what does players discussing the team – something that happens nearly every day – rise to “meeting” status?

But these team meetings happen ever year, usually when a team is struggling. The Cavaliers, Thunder and Lakers have already had confabs labeled a “team meeting” this season. Teams usually emerge saying they’ve found solutions to their problems. Sometimes, it translates onto the court. Usually, there’s not a significant turnaround.

I’ve never seen a public response to the meeting itself like with the Wizards, though.

John Wall, via Cam Ellis of NBC Sports Washington:

“At our team meeting, I think a couple guys took it in a negative way,” Wall said after the team’s win in Detroit. “It hurt our team. Instead of using it in a positive way like we did in the past and using it to build our team up, it kind of set us back a bit.”

Bradley Beal, via Candace Buckner of The Washington Post:

“It was tough. I try to keep all our stuff as personal as possible but I think in a way not everybody got a chance to speak whenever they wanted to,” Bradley Beal said. “They didn’t want to bring up an issue or something they had a problem with on the team. Regardless of what may be going on, as men we’ve got to be able to accept what the next man says, be respectful about it and move on from it. I think it was one of those situations where we didn’t necessarily get everything that we wanted to get accomplished.

“Honestly, it was probably — I won’t say pointless,” Beal continued, “but we didn’t accomplish what we needed to accomplish in that meeting.”

Yeesh.

Nobody seemed to remember exactly when the meeting occurred, which says something. It sounds as if airing grievances actually hurt team chemistry.

The Wizards (26-20) are good, but not as good as hoped/expected. They too often coast against bad teams, and coach Scott Brooks has openly questioned their effort. So, what’s the solution?

Wall, via Buckner:

“Front office got to figure it out.”

If you’re one of Wall’s teammates who clashed at the meeting, and now you’re hearing him bring it up publicly and imply roster moves might be the solution, how would you feel about your future in Washington?

Rajon Rondo invites Ray Allen to 2008 Celtics reunion

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The 2008 Celtics are finally doing something that isn’t petty.

Rajon Rondo was planning a reunion vacation for that championship team while specifically not inviting Ray Allen. Allen ruffled feathers by leaving Boston for the Heat, and many Celtics held a grudge.

But Paul Pierce eventually said it’s time to move on, and now Rondo is also ready.

Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe:

Rondo said Allen has an open invitation to join his former teammates this summer.

“Everybody [on the team] is invited,” he said.

This is how it should be. Allen was a free agent, free to sign with Miami or wherever he wanted. Not that it should matter here, but the Celtics tried to trade him before he left. And Pierce and Kevin Garnett also left Boston, Pierce talking Garnett into waiving his no-trade clause to facilitate a move to the Nets.

It’s not clear how Garnett, another leader in the charge against Allen, feels about welcoming him. But, presumably, he’ll take a cue from Rondo. Garnett probably won’t be the one calling Allen with the trip details, though.

The big question now: Who gives Scot Pollard the itinerary?

Status woe: Cavaliers not planning lineup changes amid slump

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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue isn’t changing his starting lineup or rotations despite Cleveland’s current troubling state.

A day after the Cavs gave up 148 points – tying a franchise record that stood since 1972 – in an embarrassing loss to Oklahoma City, Lue said he’s not making any major moves to snap his team from its mid-season doldrums (and as they head into a tough stretch of the schedule).

The Cavs have lost 10 of 14 and have been blown out three times in the past week.

Lue decided not to show his players video on Sunday as the team practiced in advance of Tuesday’s game in San Antonio. Lue explained his reasoning for not making any changes as the Cavs are the same team that won 13 straight and 18 of 19 earlier this season.

Cavs forward Kyle Korver said the only way to fix things is “to look yourself in the mirror and say how can I help the team? It’s really simple but it really is true.”

 

Three Things to Know: Tony Parker out as starter, Dejounte Murray in for Spurs

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Tony Parker loses starting job to Dejounte Murray, Spurs lose anyway to Pacers. Since getting back into the lineup after off-season quad surgery, future Hall of Famer Tony Parker has started all 21 games he has played in. He has started all but 13 games in a 17-year NBA career and hasn’t come off the bench for a game since 2010.

Until Sunday. Dejounte Murray got the call and that is how it’s going to be for a while in San Antonio. Parker told Tom Osborn of the Express-News he’s good with it because Popovich wants it.

“Pop told me,” Parker said. “He told me he thought it was time, and I was like, ‘No problem.’ Just like Manu (Ginobili), just like Pau (Gasol), you know that day is going to come. If Pop sees something that is good for the team, I will try to do my best…I will support Pop’s decision, and I will try to help DJ as best as I can and try to be the best I can in that second unit with Manu and Patty (Mills).”

Especially with Manu Ginobili and Rudy Gay both out injured, the second unit could use some more shot creation, which Parker can provide. More importantly, Parker has said he isn’t right yet this season after surgery, and he had lost a step the last couple of seasons when he was healthy. Still, we will see how long this change sticks, every time the Spurs go away from Parker, they return. Before this game, the four regular Spurs starters this season — Kyle Anderson, Danny Green, Paul Gasol, and LaMarcus Aldridge — plus Parker were outscoring teams by 29 points per 100 possessions. With Murray those four are -3.1 per 100 (Stats via Cleaning the Glass, which removes garbage time). (I need to add here that due to injuries, none of these lineups has played even 200 minutes together yet this season).

There is a statistical reason for the move, however — the Spurs have won this season despite having no Kawhi Leonard to speak of because of their second best defense in the NBA, and with Murray on the court this season San Antonio has been 11 points per 100 possessions better than when he sits.

Sunday, Popovich and the Spurs got the up-and-down, roller coaster game we have come to expect from Murray — he does a lot of good things, and he makes some plays like a young player. The defense was stingy, as expected, but the offense generated just 88.4 points per 100 possessions, and the Spurs lost to the Pacers 94-86. The starting five were -4 in their 15+ minutes.

Victor Oladipo had 19 points and led a balanced Pacers attack in the win.

2) Kyrie Irving returns, drops 40, but Celtics lose to lowly Magic anyway, their third straight defeat. If the Celtics were going to have a stinker of a game, Sunday was the time to do it because everyone in New England was focused on the Patriots and nobody was going to notice what they did.

After missing one game, Kyrie Irving returned with a vengeance Sunday scoring 40 points on 23 shots and hitting 5-of-7 from three. None of that mattered after the game, where the Celtics struggled at home and lost to the Orlando Magic, the formerly last-place team in the East, 103-95 (Orlando moved ahead of Atlanta with the win).

The struggle in those three games has been on the offensive end (the defense, best in the NBA for the season, has still been good). The Celtics are approaching the trade deadline looking for more shooting if they can find the right deal (what team isn’t?), and for a few games it has looked like they needed it because Jaylen Brown can’t make this between-the-legs move on every possession.

@fchwpo goes through his legs to get to the bucket!

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Boston is still two-games up in the East on Toronto, but they head now out of a four-game road trip in the West. We’ll see if the offense finds itself against the Lakers (who have played better the past couple of weeks and are no easy win).

3) Lakers’ fan drains $100K halfcourt shot. This was the shot of the day — and was worth $100,000 to a bounty hunter and Lakers’ fan.

Mayhem in LA as he uses the window for $100K!

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