NBA Christmas 2021: Depleted Warriors see off Suns to regain top spot in NBA
- Curry, Warriors beat Suns 116-107 to regain top spot in NBA
- Covid-ravaged Nets hold off Lakers behind Harden’s 36
- Bucks rally late in Antetokounmpo’s return for 117-113 win
- Walker’s triple-double leads Knicks over Hawks, 101-87
Stephen Curry had 33 points, Otto Porter Jr scored seven of his 19 during a key late stretch and the Golden State Warriors regained to top spot in the NBA from Phoenix, beating the Suns 116-107 on Saturday.
Golden State arrived in the desert short-handed, missing three of its top four scorers to health and safety protocols: Andrew Wiggins, Damion Lee and Jordan Poole.
Curry carried most of the load, overcoming a mediocre shooting night to crack 20 points for the first time in nine Christmas games. He finished 10 for 27, including 5 for 16 from 3 to help the Warriors end Phoenix’s 15-game home winning streak.
Instead of Curry, it was Porter taking over down the stretch, hitting a step-back three and a pair of jumpers in a span of 1:02.
Chris Paul had 21 points and eight assists for Phoenix. Deandre Ayton finished with 18 points in the Suns’ third loss in 28 games.
The two teams with the NBA’s best records played in just the third Christmas game in which both teams had a winning percentage of at least .800.
Playing on Christmas is nothing new to the Warriors. This was their ninth straight Christmas Day game and 11th in 12 seasons. The Suns, once regulars on the Christmas schedule, were in their first since 2009.
Both teams put on an after-the-presents offensive show at Footprint Center, sending oohs and aahs across the Footprint Center with each dunk and 3-pointer.
Curry had 11 points in the first quarter and Gary Payton II a massive rebound slam as the Warriors built an early 10-point lead. The Suns revved it up in the second quarter, going on a 15-3 run and taking a 62-58 halftime lead on Paul’s last-second three-pointer.
The teams continued to trade threes and baskets in transition, neither able to gain any separation until Golden State went on a short run to go up 107-99.
The Suns pulled within two, but Porter hit consecutive jumpers and a long three to stretch Golden State’s lead to nine.
Brooklyn Nets 122-115 Los Angeles Lakers
Nic Claxton threw down a tiebreaking alley-oop over LeBron James with 40.7 seconds left, and James Harden and Brooklyn returned from a week-long Coviid-19 hiatus to beat Los Angeles.
Harden had 36 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. The last helper was a lob that Claxton caught with two hands while soaring over James, who had just helped Los Angeles erase a 20-point deficit. Claxton posterized the 17-time All-Star, then made a free throw for a three-point play and a 118-115 lead.
Patty Mills added 34 points for the Nets, who had their past three games postponed because they did not have enough players to compete. They were still without Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, among others.
James scored 39 points to pass Kobe Bryant for most career points on Christmas Day, but it was not enough to stop the Lakers’ losing streak from reaching five. Russell Westbrook had 13 points, 11 assists and 12 rebounds for his second career holiday triple-double.
Atlanta Hawks 87-101 New York Knicks
Kemba Walker became the seventh NBA player with a triple-double on Christmas, and New York beat depleted Atlanta for its first victory on the holiday in a decade.
Julius Randle had 25 points and 12 rebounds for the Knicks in a matchup of teams that met in the first round of last season’s playoffs. But the Hawks were missing Trae Young among nine players in the NBA’s health and safety protocols, so it wasn’t much of a rematch of Atlanta’s five-game victory.
Walker finished with 10 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds. It was the first triple-double on Christmas since Golden State’s Draymond Green in 2017. John Collins and Delon Wright each scored 20 points for the Hawks.
It was the first triple-double on Christmas since Golden State’s Draymond Green in 2017, continuing Walker’s strong stretch since going from out of the rotation to back in the starting lineup when the Knicks were short-handed.
Fans in the sold-out crowd chanted “Kemba Walker! Kemba Walker!” for the New York native, who scored 44 points in a loss to Washington on Thursday.
Boston Celtics 113-117 Milwaukee Bucks
Giannis Antetokounmpo returned from the NBA’s healthy and safety protocols to score 36 points, and Wesley Matthews hit a three-pointer with 30.3 seconds left to give Milwaukee its first lead in the Bucks’ victory over Boston.
Seeing his first action since 12 December, Antetokounmpo played 30 minutes and connected on 13 of 23 shots while shooting 10 for 15 from the free-throw line. Milwaukee also got center Bobby Portis and guard Donte DiVincenzo back from Covid-19 protocols.
Boston had just eight players available after putting Dennis Schroder in the protocols earlier Saturday, but took control behind Jaylen Brown, who scored 14 of his 25 points in the opening quarter. Jayson Tatum also scored 25 points for Boston, which led by as many as 19 and went into halftime with a 35-22 advantage.
Milwaukee trimmed the deficit to one when Middleton knocked down a three with 3:39 left in the third. But the Celtics answered with five straight and opened the fourth with a 8-0 run, including six from Parker, who converted a three-point play to make it 102-90 with 10:15 to play.
Portis’ put-back with eight minutes left was the start of the Bucks’ charge, tying the game at 111 when Antetokounmpo scored and drew a foul with 1:26 left. He missed the free throw and Brown made a pair on the other end to put Boston back in front.
But Matthews buried his three for a 114-113 lead, and the Bucks held on.