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.
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
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
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.