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.

Report: Bulls shopping Rajon Rondo, Nikola Mirotic as trade deadline apporaches

CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 02: Rajon Rondo #9 of the Chicago Bulls watches from the bench as the Bulls take on the Charlotte Hornets at the United Center on January 2, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Hornets 118-111. The NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Chicago’s front office chose to make quick-fix, treading water moves this summer. They wisely traded Derrick Rose and kept Jimmy Butler as a franchise cornerstone, but when the possibility of getting Dwyane Wade became a reality they decided to push to win more now, adding Rajon Rondo to the mix. The fit seemed awkward from the start and the result is exactly what everyone outside Chicago predicted — a roughly .500 team (22-23) that is terrible at shooting the three.

The Bulls are barely in the playoff mix and are now looking to make changes, shopping Rondo and Nikola Mirotic in hopes of finding players that are better fits, reports Joe Crowley of the Chicago Sun-Times.

According to multiple sources, the Bulls have been actively shopping Rajon Rondo and Nikola Mirotic in hopes of shaking up the roster, as well as making a second-half run in the wide-open Eastern Conference. However, according to one of the sources, neither player is moving the needle as far as what general manager Gar Forman deems a worthy return.

“Obviously, you knew that would be the case with Rondo,’’ the source said. “But they don’t like what they’re hearing back on [Mirotic] either. Then again, that’s a [front office] that tends to overvalue its assets.”

This isn’t really news to anyone following the Bulls, they have been looking for deals — particularly for Rondo — for a little while.

The bigger question is: What do the Bulls think they could get back for Rondo? It’s not going to be anything of value. The summer free agent market for him was not strong and, while he was arguably the best point guard still on the market when they went looking, the $14 million they gave him this season was more about money they had to spend than pure market value. Since then, Rondo has had clashes with the coaching staff and been sent to the bench which plays into his reputation (whether that is fair or not is another question), making it even harder to find a taker for him.

Mirotic has taken a step back this season and is inconsistent with what his supposed to be his strength, outside shooting — he is hitting just 31.1 percent from three this season. While a change of scenery could be good for his touch from the outside, he is also a major defensive liability, which limits his value.

All of which is to say, the Bulls are not going to get a lot in return here. The Bulls may realize that Cristiano Felicio is the future at that spot for them, but it doesn’t mean others are biting on Mirotic.

Also, just a reminder that the Bulls are shooting down all trade interest about Butler.

 

Baron Davis figured out why Russell Westbrook isn’t starting All-Star Game: Russian hackers

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When the starters for next month’s All-Star Game in New Orleans were announced this week, there was a mini-uproar on Twitter because Russell Westbrook — the guy averaging a triple-double this season — wasn’t picked. It’s hard for me to get worked up over two-time MVP Stephen Curry getting the nod, but if you want someone to blame it was the fans’ call — they voted Curry first overall, James Harden second, Westbrook third. The players and media had Westbrook first, Harden second, but the tie is broken by the fan vote.

Enter Baron Davis with the timely joke.

We just need to tie in a Zaza Pachulia joke and it will be perfect.

Report: Bucks brought Jabari Parker off bench for discussing with media team’s meeting

Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker, center, looks for an open teammate as he is surrounded by Miami Heat players during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017, in Miami. The Heat defeated the Bucks 109-97. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
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The Milwaukee Bucks had lost four in a row and had slid out of a playoff slot in the East. It’s not one end of the court — in their last five games, the Bucks had the second-worst defense and fourth-worst offense in the NBA. After that fourth loss, the team held a players’ only meeting, one where Jabari Parker reportedly ripped his teammates for a lack of togetherness.

In the postgame media sessions that followed, Parker told the press he confirmed there was a meeting and said he had been “thrashed” by his teammates for what he said.

It was that speaking to the media that got him benched for a game — as decided by his teammates — reports Chris Haynes of ESPN.

Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker did not start in Saturday’s road loss to the Miami Heat for violating a team rule that prohibits disclosing locker room discourse to the media, league sources told ESPN…

Parker’s teammates deliberated and decided the appropriate punishment for the violation was to bring him off the bench against the Heat, league sources told ESPN. It was the first time this season that he did not start.

The meeting and the benching didn’t help, the Bucks fell to the lowly Heat 109-97. (Team/players meetings are overrated in how often they help teams turn things around.)

The good news for the Bucks is that in a tight East they remain just a game out of the playoffs and three games out of the five seed. It’s going to be a tough week to turn that around with the Rockets, resurgent Sixers, Raptors, and Celtics on the schedule.

 

Denver’s Kenneth Faried gets up, blocks DeAndre Jordan dunk attempt (VIDEO)

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Without Chris Paul and Blake Griffin in the lineup, the Clippers don’t have much going for them offensively. However, there is one thing: DeAndre Jordan can still run to the rim and dunk with authority.

Denver’s Kenneth Faried took that away Saturday.

Faried hustled back in transition, showed he still had some hops and swatted away a Jordan dunk attempt.

The Nuggets went on to win the game comfortably, 123-98, behind 19 points and 10 boards from Nikola Jokic.