Good afternoon, pleased holidays, and welcome to theScore’s NBA Christmas Day reside weblog! All through the day, options writers Joe Wolfond and William Lou will probably be bringing you real-time response to the NBA’s five-game slate.

This put up will cowl all of the afternoon motion, from Bucks-Knicks to Thunder-Rockets to 76ers-Celtics, whereas our night weblog will sort out Lakers-Warriors and Blazers-Jazz. Thanks for following alongside!

Philadelphia 76ers at Boston Celtics

Wolfond: Proper, I completely forgot about Baynes’ damage. He is been Embiid Kryptonite prior to now, in order that’s a pleasant break for Philly.

Agreed on Kyrie: He is been superior on this first quarter, and his defensive effort has been noticeable all season. It feels just like the tempo of this sport ought to favor the Sixers however thus far it has been the Celtics making hay in transition. The ESPN boxscore says that Mike Muscala has not entered this sport, and even supposing I am presently Mike Muscala and he seems to be on the court docket, I am inclined to consider ESPN.

Lou: Embiid seems like he is making an attempt to show some extent in opposition to Horford, and that is precisely what the 76ers want. Boston’s frontcourt is skinny behind Horford, so Embiid ought to look to put up him up early and sometimes to get him in foul bother. Guershon Yabusele and Robert Williams are in for a world of ache.

In any other case, it has been the hustle of Kyrie Irving that stands out. He is been working quite a bit more durable on protection this season, and he is already gotten on the glass for 3 offensive rebounds within the opening six minutes. He is making an attempt to will the younger Celtics to victory, and I admire that.

Wolfond: Good to see Joel Embiid get going with a few jumpers, together with a 3-ball. I wrote just lately about how the Sixers may want him to rediscover that stroke in an effort to open up their offense. That might be very true in a matchup in opposition to Al Horford and Aron Baynes, two guys who’ve traditionally fared fairly nicely in opposition to him within the put up.

Additionally, Marcus Morris out right here wanting Ben Simmons-level cowardly early on.

Last: Rockets 113, Thunder 109

Wolfond: I’d’ve put Russ over Schroder regardless of the tough end, however onerous to argue with a lot else. Now, let’s get on to this matchup of Jap Convention groups which might be worse than the Raptors!

Lou: My greatest takeaway is that Capela must play with that sort of all-out hustle extra usually. He grabbed 23 rebounds, together with 10 on the offensive finish, whereas going up in opposition to an elite inside defender in Adams.

Permit me at hand out stars for the sport:

Three stars for the Rockets: Harden, Capela, Gordon
Three stars for the Thunder: George, Grant, Schroder

Wolfond: 100 p.c agree on the quick-two factor, particularly when it isn’t even a one-possession sport. If it is solely a three-point deficit and you’ve got timeouts left I can perhaps get behind it, however what is the level in going for 2 whenever you’re down 4 with beneath 20 seconds left??

Larger image: That was sort of a disastrous fourth quarter for Westbrook, huh? Additionally a really stable win for an undermanned Rockets squad. What had been your massive takeaways?

0:15 4th Q: Rockets 112, Thunder 109

Lou: OKC goes for the fast two down 4 and Westbrook will get bailed out with free throws, however he splits the pair. I hate when groups attempt to extend the sport with the fast two – simply take the three!

1:21 4th Q: Rockets 110, Thunder 106

Wolfond: It is wild how Harden is simply selecting aside each pick-and-roll protection the Thunder throw at him. They trapped once more and he hit Capela for a dunk. Then the Thunder tried to hedge with Adams, however after Westbrook recovered to Harden, Harden cooked him with an off-hand inside-out dribble after which hit a floater over Adams.

Additionally, Austin Rivers is out right here hitting crunch-time threes and enjoying lockdown D on Westbrook! Eat your coronary heart out, Chris Paul!

4:16 4th Q: Rockets 104, Thunder 98

Lou: I am beginning to get nervous for the Thunder. Most of their success on this sport has come from pushing the tempo off turnovers and rebounds, however odds are that this sport will decelerate within the ultimate moments.

Westbrook would not have his jumper going in any respect, so I want to see George provoke extra offense, though that is additionally a difficulty with Tucker placing the clamps to him. Schroder might need to step in and be the secondary creator for a couple of possessions.

The plan for Houston is easy. Give the ball to Harden and let him create and have Capela crash the glass on each possession. 75-year-old Nene purchased him some priceless minutes.

6:11 4th Q: Rockets 102, Thunder 95

Wolfond: Profitable these Harden-less minutes was huge for Houston, however the Thunder positive helped them out by going with no Westbrook or George to open the quarter.

One factor I will say is that the transition from starters to bench will not be almost as catastrophic for OKC as it has been the final couple of years, and Dennis Schroder is the largest purpose why. He is carried out job attacking and ending on the rim, he performs largely beneath management, and he can capably run the offense. He clearly is not the most effective facilitator, but it surely sort of works as a result of no one else on the Thunder bench can rating price a rattling, in order that they don’t actually need Schroder to playmake a lot as simply get buckets.

Anyway, Harden and Westbrook are each again within the sport now and the Rockets are lastly getting a little bit of separation. How do you see the stretch run enjoying out?

Lou: Let’s examine if the Rockets’ bench should buy Harden a couple of minutes of relaxation to start out the fourth. Eric Gordon must put his mark on the sport past a couple of hopeful 30-foot threes. Danuel Home Jr. has additionally been fairly stable together with his protection and vitality.

Finish third Q: Thunder 88, Rockets 86

Wolfond: Harden has been ridiculous this sport, and actually has been all season, however sure, I would be involved about him breaking down if Paul cannot finally come again in ok kind to assist him out. We have seen it occur too many occasions.

This sport has gotten tremendous fascinating. One wrinkle I am being attentive to: The Rockets appear very keen to modify Harden onto Adams, and the Thunder are responding by making an attempt to put up Adams on him. It is gotten him a pair simple buckets however Harden has really held his personal. He picked Adams’ pocket from behind within the first half and compelled him right into a miss within the second.

By the way in which, the Thunder simply trapped Harden and he simply slipped a go to Nene for a dunk. They’ve had success switching that motion when it is Jerami Grant because the display screen defender however that is a scarier proposition when it is Adams concerned as a substitute.

Lou: It is positively enjoying out at a gradual tempo. For me, I am curious to see if the Thunder begin to entice Harden. He is getting round Adams fairly simply on the drive, and he is mainly the one one who can rating on the Rockets. Harden is single-handedly conserving the Rockets alive together with his 23 first-half factors.

Again to the purpose about Paul: Are you nervous that Harden will finally put on down if he continues to hold the workforce on this vogue? He is actually controlling each single possession.

Halftime: Thunder 60, Rockets 52

Wolfond: I positively do not suppose Chris Paul is unhealthy, however the hamstring stuff is beginning to get fairly worrying, and it isn’t like he was setting the world on fireplace earlier than he reaggravated his damage. The Rockets had been nonetheless fairly rattling good within the video games he missed final season, however they clearly do not have the depth to make up for a dip in his manufacturing (not to mention an prolonged absence) this yr.

Anyway, I assumed that was a enjoyable second quarter, with Harden, Westbrook, and George all coming alive! Apparently Russ set a Christmas Day document with that final steal proper earlier than the half, however swallowing that ball with three seconds left on the clock as a substitute of going for a heave was fairly egregious.

Stray ideas: There’s been quite a lot of up-and-down, however I really feel like this sport goes to wind up with a extremely gradual tempo score as a result of each groups are gobbling up offensive rebounds on virtually each offensive journey. Capela already has eight of them. The 2 groups mixed have 22. … Steven Adams has such nice coordination and physique management for a man his measurement. He hit a pair powerful, awkward layups on the transfer in that half.

Any stray ideas from you earlier than we begin the second half?

Lou: That is the primary time I’ve seen Brandon Knight in almost two years, so I assumed I’d jot it down within the weblog. Basketball-Reference tells me that he is scored eight factors in six video games this yr, however I do not fairly consider that.

(Picture courtesy: ESPN)

By the way in which, on a scale of 1-10, how nervous are you about Chris Paul? Is he in decline or is he simply unhealthy?

Wolfond: I really feel like Rivers has pressured issues a bit in his first shift, however I agree, not being MCW is a mark in his favor.

The Thunder simply went to a five-man second unit, which scored surprisingly nicely however could not get any stops. (I actually just like the vitality they have been getting from Nerlens Noel off the bench.) I do not suppose the Rockets even make use of 5 bench gamers in order that they staggered their guys as a substitute and eventually obtained a pair threes to go down. I do not thoughts watching the Thunder, primarily as a result of I believe they’re enjoyable as hell within the open court docket. Their offense does get tremendous slowed down within the halfcourt, although.

Lou: It is really unimaginable that neither workforce appears intent on working performs. The one set actions are straight after timeouts. In any other case it is simply Harden and Westbrook calling for a excessive display screen and freestyling. It is a part of the rationale why I do not significantly take pleasure in both of those two groups.

What do you make of Austin Rivers with the Rockets thus far? He is not Michael Carter-Williams so he is already good in my guide.

Finish 1st Q: Thunder 22, Rockets 22

Wolfond: That was a particular go. It was additionally the one help the Rockets recorded within the first quarter! Each these groups are taking pictures terribly. The Rockets cannot hit something from behind the arc and the Thunder have already missed like 17 layups. Russ and PG are a mixed 2-of-12 from the sector, so being tied after one seems like a reasonably good end result for OKC.

Lou: I am giving Capela the slight benefit over Adams solely as a result of James Harden is a greater passer out of the decide and roll than Russell Westbrook. I imply, simply have a look at this:

Wolfond: OH MY GOD.

For the document, LeBron and that rapping grandma nonetheless go 12-2 within the Jap Convention playoffs.

As for this sport, I am intrigued by the Steven Adams-Clint Capela matchup. The Thunder must also simply be doing no matter they’ll to get P.J. Tucker switched off of PG, as a result of no one else on the Rockets can guard him.

Lou: Joey, my condolences for enduring the annual snoozefest in Madison Sq. Backyard. I stored checking my cellphone for the “Giannis clocks Mario” push alert and was sadly disenchanted. As for this sport, I’ve the Thunder successful simply, and whereas he isn’t fairly within the MVP dialog, I’ll say that that is the most effective ball George has ever performed in his profession.

However please reply me this: Did I simply see Rajon Rondo as a rapping grandma through the promos for this sport?

(Picture courtesy: ESPN)

Wolfond: William, welcome. Merry Christmas! Who do you want in Thunder-Rockets? Is Paul George an precise MVP candidate? I have been speaking to myself for 3 hours, please speak to me.

Last: Bucks 109, Knicks 95

Wolfond: And that is a wrap on the primary sport of the day. The Knicks hung powerful within the first half, however the Bucks stepped on the gasoline and pulled away fairly simply within the second. Credit score New York for holding them to 6-of-32 from 3-point vary; the Bucks missed some simple ones, however for probably the most half, the Knicks made it powerful. Finally, this got here down to at least one workforce having Giannis Antetokounmpo and the opposite workforce very a lot not having Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Three stars for the Bucks: Giannis, Lopez, Brogdon
Three stars for the Knicks: Vonleh, Knox, Vonleh once more

Keep tuned for Thunder-Rockets at Three p.m. ET, when the nice William Lou will be a part of this system.

Wolfond: Giannis checks out to an honest ovation from the MSG trustworthy. He’ll end with 30 factors, 14 rebounds, two assists, 4 steals, and two blocks, with a plus-15 score in 35 minutes. And truthfully, he made it look fairly informal.

Wolfond: Giannis has been quietly dominant, with 26 factors and 12 boards, however I really suppose Vonleh has carried out a reasonably good job on him after they’ve been matched up. Getting deep in his stance, refusing to get pushed beneath the ring, and forcing Giannis to resort to leap photographs.

Wolfond: I like Trier’s sport, however he will get tunnel imaginative and prescient generally. Missed Trey Burke extensive open within the nook on that final possession – although, in equity, Burke is 1-for-7 on this sport. Trier additionally in all probability may’ve hit Luke Kornet on the pop. In any case, the Bucks are in management up 17 with beneath eight minutes to play.

Finish third Q: Bucks 84, Knicks 68

Wolfond: Ever since I referred to as out Maker for a tough first-quarter stretch, he is been in all probability this sport’s best middle. The Bucks lastly hit a pair threes after an 0-for-17 spell, and their protection has smothered a Knicks workforce that’s simply painfully gentle on shot creation.

Wolfond: Allonzo Trier has a enjoyable and efficient stop-and-go transfer. He used it to get to the rim for a pair of layups, however certainly one of them was wiped away by an Antetokounmpo goaltend block.

4:43 third Q: Bucks 71, Knicks 58

Wolfond: Okay, I now not consider in Christmas Day Kanter. His protection has clearly been tough, however he isn’t even setting good screens. I am uncertain why the Knicks are insisting on staying massive relatively than going to Vonleh at middle.

The Bucks are up 13 regardless of taking pictures 3-of-22 from 3-point vary – although the Knicks at 4-of-16 have not been significantly better.

7:40 third Q: Bucks 62, Knicks 54

Wolfond: The Bucks have scored on seven of their first 10 possessions of the second half and look like carried out messing round. On the plus aspect for the Knicks, that Kevin Knox floater is easy.

Halftime: Bucks 48, Knicks 46

Wolfond: Unbelievable sequence from Noah Vonleh, who wets a 3 on one finish, and on the different, slides with Giannis on a drive and swats the hell out of him on the rim. Vonleh’s been an ideal discover for the Knicks.

Different stray ideas: Malcolm Brogdon has been a extremely underappreciated a part of the Bucks’ breakout this season. He is bodily however beneath management, will get to his spots so simply, and is taking pictures the ball very well. Khris Middleton has been slumping for some time. He could not discover his jumper in any respect in that first half. Each groups have shot the ball miserably thus far. The Knicks are at 32 p.c from the sector and 28.6 p.c from deep, whereas the Bucks are at 37 p.c and 17.6 p.c, respectively.

Wolfond: The Knicks are enjoying a little bit of zone protection and cross-matching after they can to stay smaller guys on Brook Lopez, which is sensible. He is struggling to get clear seems from deep.

6:47 2nd Q: Bucks 35, Knicks 31

Wolfond: Giannis broke up a dribble-handoff, collected the unfastened ball, took off down the ground, and dunked like Mario Hezonja was beneath him. Thon Maker is making me eat my phrases.

Wolfond: Should get all this Knicks reward in now as a result of the Bucks are nonetheless going to win this sport by double digits, however nice job by Lance Thomas to carry his floor and keep on his toes in opposition to Giannis within the put up, forcing a journey.

Additionally, Christmas Day Kanter is a top-10 participant.

Finish 1st Q: Knicks 24, Bucks 22

Wolfond: The Knicks did job that quarter of creating Giannis see further our bodies, and so they obtained away with it as a result of the Bucks missed a handful of open threes. That was additionally a reasonably disastrous stretch from Thon Maker, who obtained pushed round inside, could not end on the rim, and badly missed a nook three.

Wolfond: That is now a 16-5 Knicks run. They’ve carried out an ideal job bringing ball strain on the defensive finish and working off Bucks misses and turnovers. Prices drawn by Noah Vonleh and Tim Hardaway Jr.

The Bucks have helped them out by clanking a ton of layups.

Wolfond: Hey all, I will be dealing with Bucks-Knicks solo earlier than Will joins me for the remainder of the afternoon and night.

I do know lots of people outdoors the New York metropolitan space are complaining in regards to the Knicks getting a Christmas sport, however this workforce has been low-key frisky and enjoyable for the previous few weeks. The Bucks raced out to a 10-2 lead, however the Knicks responded with a 9-Zero run out of a timeout thanks largely to Kevin Knox, who’s actually come alive after a tough begin to his rookie season.

Additionally, Giannis Antetokounmpo was not credited with an help for this play:

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