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Random observations from around the league
I hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday season!
The East remains very, very confusing
The presumptive favorite Nets are still first in the conference and have some of the most intriguing depth pieces in the league, even besides their two (and possibly three?) superstars. The Bulls continue to perform wayyy above expectations even after a difficult stretch of schedule. The Bucks have arguably looked the most dominant when healthy. The Heat are cobbling together victories thanks to star-studded lineups featuring Max Strus, Omer Yurtseven, KJ Okpala, and Gabe Vincent.
And yet, the Cavaliers are the projected favorite by a large margin, according to Basketball-Reference. Cleaning The Glass says they have the best point differential per 100 possessions in the East. They’ve had the best defense and third-best offense in the entire NBA over the last two weeks.
Meanwhile, the Washington Wizards, first-quarter darlings, are 3-7 in their last ten games. Last year’s Eastern Conference runner-up, the Atlanta Hawks, are in 12th place, just behind the Knicks (don’t look now, but coach Thibs broke the glass for an emergency and pulled out a rested Kemba Walker, who’s out here dropping 40 points and triple-doubles!)
The 76ers are quietly treading water until something happens with Ben Simmons. The Hornets and Raptors can’t make up their minds if they are good or bad. The Pacers are trying to blow things up.
At least you know what you’re going to get from the Magic and Pistons each night: reliable terribleness.
Almost nothing else makes sense in this conference, and it is GLORIOUS.
The Christmas Day games were great
All five of the games were at least competitive and many of the big names played. LeBron set the record for most-ever Christmas Day points, Kemba had the aforementioned triple-double, Warriors had a tough win over the Suns to establish themselves as THE team to beat, Giannis dropped 36 and Donte DiVincenzo returned for the Bucks in a big win over the Celtics.
And Mavericks-Jazz had THIS classic play near the end of a very tight game:
Jokic might be the MVP again
His case is growing by the day. Virtually any advanced stat you look at has Nikola Jokica at the top. The Nuggets literally play as well as the Warriors with him on the floor and like the Pistons with him on the bench. He’s shooting 57% from the floor and 36.4% from three despite being the only Nugget who’s capable of scoring points. Jokic is even playing the best defense of his life.
Plus, he’s got a hell of a twerk:
The COVID protocol absences are leading to some fun tweets
First, from former #1 overall pick Greg Monroe, who hadn’t played in the NBA since 2019 but suited up the other night for the Timberwolves:
Then, from ESPN Stats & Info:
Finally, this Ja Morant game winner:
I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a player who has as much body control in the air as Ja Morant. Kyrie Irving and Tony Parker, maybe, but they never had the bunnies that Ja does. This is an unbelievable finish in one of his first games back in the lineup:
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: