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: Delonte West enters rehab with help of Mavericks owner Mark Cuban

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban with Delonte West
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Every so often, a video or picture goes viral of Delonte West – who played primarily for the Celtics and Cavaliers and whose NBA career ended with the Mavericks in 2012 – on the street appearing to be in rough shape.

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban did something about it.

TMZ:

Mark Cuban is personally helping Delonte West get back on his feet … with the Dallas Mavericks owner picking up the ex-NBA star at a gas station in Texas.

We’re even told Cuban has offered to help cover Delonte’s cost for treatment.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Good for Cuban for stepping up. And hopefully West gets the help he needs.

Report: Clippers likely would’ve ousted Doc Rivers with any result shy of title

Doc Rivers and Clippers owner Steve Ballmer
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The Clippers’ loss to the Nuggets was devastating. L.A. was a huge favorite. Blowing a 3-1 lead added to the misery. As did the Clippers’ history of futility, which was supposed to end with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.

But Doc Rivers’ job appeared safe in the aftermath.

Then, the Clippers suddenly ousted him as coach yesterday.

What changed?

Jovan Buha of The Athletic:

There was no aha moment or event that led to the Clippers’ and Doc Rivers’ decision to mutually part ways on Monday afternoon, league sources told The Athletic.

Following the Clippers’ premature postseason ouster, Rivers and Clippers owner Steve Ballmer held several candid meetings and conversations, league sources said.

They discussed where things went wrong for the Clippers in the playoffs and forecasted their visions of the organization’s future, including the team’s style of play, the makeup of the roster, player development and on- and off-court leadership.

After hours of back-and-forth, the sides concluded they had differing visions of the team’s path forward

Even if the Clippers had lost deeper in the postseason, say, to the Lakers in the conference finals or to the Heat in the finals, Rivers likely would not have been back next season.

Of course, the Clippers want to present themselves as having made the rational decision. Nobody wants to be the organization that overreacted to a single situation.

The Clippers’ issues – specifically a lack of chemistrymanifested throughout the season. Rivers handled that poorly. That’d be true whether or not the Clippers had enough talent to get by the Nuggets or Lakers, anyway.

Process over results is a nice ethos.

It’s difficult to implement, though.

The collapse against Denver left such a sour taste in everyone’s mouth. However people think they would’ve reacted to a different outcome, it’s impossible to know for certain. So, I have some skepticism about whether Rivers still would’ve been ousted if he guided the Clippers to the Western Conference finals and especially NBA Finals.

That said, he didn’t. Not this year. Not any year.

So, it was easier for the Clippers to move on with a coach they viewed as flawed. They never faced the difficult decision on a coach they viewed as flawed but also had more success. We just can’t know with certainty how that would’ve gone.

Doc Rivers failed to deliver in playoffs for Clippers

Former Clippers coach Doc Rivers
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Listen to all the praise being heaped upon Doc Rivers – as both a coach and person – in the aftermath of his firing. He has earned that. It’s why he’s already in demand for openings around the league.

But it’s impossible to ignore his teams repeatedly falling short in the postseason.

The Clippers hired Rivers specifically for his ability to win deep in the playoffs. He guided the Celtics to the 2008 championship and back to the 2010 NBA Finals. For a downtrodden franchise like the Clippers, getting Rivers looked like a coup.

In Rivers’ seven seasons, the Clippers averaged winning 63% of their regular-season and seeding games. There have been 152 seven-year stretches that good in NBA history.

All of them produced at least five playoff-series victories.

Except the Clippers of this era.

Rivers’ Clippers won just three postseason series in seven years.

Rivers didn’t even emphasize the regular season. He often eschewed practice to keep his players fresh. And his teams still won so many regular-season games, which speaks to the Clippers’ star power.

Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and  DeAndre Jordan then Kawhi Leonard and Paul George – Rivers’ teams were loaded.

They also never advanced past the second round.

Of course, that requires more context.

Beating the Warriors in the 2014 first round looks even better in hindsight, considering Golden State turned into a dynasty. The 2015 Clippers-Spurs series, which L.A. won, had no business being in the first round with teams that good. The Clippers lost in the second round to the Rockets when Josh Smith and Corey Brewer – Josh Smith and Corey Brewer! – got hot on 3-pointers. The Clippers lost to the Trail Blazers in the 2016 first round after Chris Paul and Blake Griffin got hurt. Griffin got hurt again in a first-round loss to the Jazz the next year. The Clippers overachieved just to make the 2019 playoffs.

Maybe Rivers would’ve been the right coach for the Clippers in the 2021 postseason. New issues arise, and he already proved he can coach a team to a championship. The Clippers are taking a huge risk with this move.

But this year’s historic collapse against the Nuggets reflected particularly poorly on Rivers, who has now blown three 3-1 leads as a coach. The Clippers were disjointed – an issue that lingered throughout the season. His personnel and tactical decisions were suspect.

And – perhaps most importantly – there was no track record of success in L.A. to fall back on.

The Clippers’ problems weren’t all Rivers’ fault. The timing of his ouster, after his job appeared safe, raises questions.

But it might just be this simple: Rivers was hired to win in the playoffs. He didn’t.

Report: Doc Rivers was surprised to learn Clippers were ousting him

Former Clippers coach Doc Rivers
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The Clippers framed the conclusion of Doc Rivers’ coaching tenure as, “Doc Rivers Departs LA Clippers” and “Chairman Steve Ballmer and Doc Rivers have reached a mutual decision that Rivers will step down as head coach of the LA Clippers.”

What really happened?

Dan Woike and Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times:

people with knowledge of the situation said Rivers was surprised to learn the Clippers wanted to move on.

Internally, Rivers enjoyed support even after the Clippers blew a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference semifinals. But ultimately, the sting from yet another disappointing end to a season prompted the change.

The Clippers suffered a historic upset by blowing a 3-1 lead to the Nuggets. In a season with legitimate championship aspirations, the Clippers fell short of even the conference finals for a record 50th straight year.

Of course, the coach was going to face scrutiny for that collapse. And Rivers deserved plenty.

But once the smoke cleared, Rivers appeared safe.

What changed?

Despite the Clippers’ initial spin, it’s becoming increasingly clear Rivers got fired. Still, many questions remain about the shocking move.