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Five things we learned watching the NBA on Christmas

Dec 26, 2011, 1:00 PM EDT

Heat forward James and guard Wade laugh during the closing minutes against the Mavericks in Dallas, Texas Reuters

The NBA gave five Christmas day presents to the fans… which were really more like belated birthday gifts disguised as Christmas gifts because we should have opened the NBA season on Nov. 1. But we’ll forgive and move on, like we do with family around the holidays. We’re just glad to have the NBA back.

There were no real moments of enlightenment among the day of sloppy play. But we did learn a few things. Five things.

1. When the Miami Heat runs they are beasts, and they are running a lot more. Sunday Miami had 100 possessions (via Basketball-Reference) — nearly nine more per game than they averaged last year. The result was Showtime in Miami (and a blowout win).

This is what Erik Spoelstra wants to do all season, it’s why he studied the Oregon offense with Chip Kelly this summer. Despite having all those amazing open-floor finishers — LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are as good as there are in the league — the Heat played at the 20th fastest pace in the league last season. If they bump that to top-10 pace this season they become a lot better. Which is scary.

2. The Oklahoma City Thunder are comfortable as contenders. The Thunder dealt with the weight of expectations smoothly on Christmas. They looked polished and like they were having fun.

By the way, that is why OKC got Kendrick Perkins — he threw Dwight Howard off his game and when you can single-cover Howard you can shut down the Magic (even if you are the Hawks). Perkins is going to matter against the Grizzlies and Lakers. He makes them better.

3. The Knicks have the potential to be a reasonable defensive team. The Knicks only played defense in spurts, and I think we can expect that all season. They were good early; the third quarter was a disaster. But on the second to last play they did a good job of taking away the Celtics’ preferred shots and leaving it to Marquis Daniels with the three (he missed). Then again, on the last play the Knicks got lucky because Bill Walker picked off his own man (Tyson Chandler) and left Kevin Garnett with a good look. Simply put, the better their defense the farther they go this season.

4. The Clippers are Chris Paul’s team now. This is not Blake Griffin’s team, this is Chris Paul’s team. Paul has the ball in his hands, he took over late. He was 4-of-4 shooting for eight points and four assists in the final six minutes of the game. There is a lot of work for the Clippers to do: Paul and Griffin have to develop more chemistry, Chauncey Billups has to clean up his shot selection, DeAndre Jordan has to not give up so many offensive rebounds chasing blocks. But when you have a guy like Paul who can take over games you win a lot. And the Clippers are going to win a lot this season.

5. The Lakers have some real grit. There were good signs out of a Lakers loss. Well, not if you watched the last four minutes there wasn’t. But in that game we didn’t learn anything we didn’t already know about the Bulls (they play great defense and that Derrick Rose guy is impressive).

But the Lakers, minus Andrew Bynum, played good defense and fought back from being down. Josh McRoberts will do the dirty work and their rookie Devin Ebanks shows promise. Thing is, you don’t win an NBA title without some grit and while we don’t expect it out of the Lakers they showed it. That will serve them well.

The question is can they beat the elite teams? That has yet to be proven.

  1. cosanostra71 - Dec 26, 2011 at 1:28 PM

    Devin Ebanks is a second year player unless I’m horribly mistaken.

    • progress2011 - Dec 26, 2011 at 4:16 PM

      The writer is obviously not the sharpest knife in the drawer.

  2. test2402 - Dec 26, 2011 at 1:38 PM

    These guys could learn something from Tim Tebow.

    • cancionisimas - Dec 26, 2011 at 1:45 PM

      How to have great teammates that carried your team, covering your mistakes and atrocius skills-set and, at the end, fail when the teams make you pass to win? hmmmmm, why they could learn that?

  3. 00maltliquor - Dec 26, 2011 at 4:23 PM

    I learned that you can sign a fresh contract and get paid 1 million dollars for every minute you stay off the bench. (Kwame Brown, 6:49 of playing time off the bench. Just signed a new contract with Golden State for $7,000,000.)

  4. progress2011 - Dec 26, 2011 at 4:27 PM

    The writer is aloof, at best. Ex: what he learned from the Bulls, beating the lakers on their own court, was that the lakers have grit. They are historically one of the most successful, big market teams in the league. If he is just learning the lakers have grit, maybe he should start writing about the weather or something because on first read, he appears to be in, waaaaay over his head.

    What I learned from the lakers loss to the Bulls, was that:

    1. the less talented Bulls have grit, on the big stage.
    2. Rose out-super starred the aging Bryant
    3. Kobe is still a BALL – HAWK ! In his attempt to out super-star Rose, on the last play of the game, he tried to take 3 Bulls players to the rack and was RE-JECTED, out of bounds !
    He had ATLEAST 2 fellow teammates, that were making big shots all game, WIDE OPEN !!!

    Conclusion of what I learned: Kobe still has not learned the basic fundamental of B-Ball….IT’S A TEAM SPORT …..PASS THE FRIGGIN BALL !!!

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