Intense NBA Rivalries Light Up Christmas Day

Intense NBA Rivalries Light Up Christmas Day

Daniel Toll, Sports Editor

It is indisputable, especially in recent memory, that the holidays have been the source of nationwide buzz in the sports world. With the NFL season nearing its end and the NBA basketball season reaching a climax at its mid-season mark, sport fans across the country have grown anxious, anticipating the futures of their respective preferred teams.

Christmas Day serves as an iconic and memorable day in the basketball season as it features some of the premier rivalries present in the NBA. They commonly showcase the NBA Finals competitors from the previous season and, as the case has been for the past three seasons in fact, the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers have battled in tight, head-to-head match-ups. Not to be disregarded however, the Houston Rockets and the Oklahoma City Thunder along with the Washington Wizards and the Boston Celtics partook in a pair of eventful contests against one of their greatest opposing rivals. The overall collection of these games undoubtedly resulted in a memorable Christmas Day in the NBA.

Golden State Warriors vs Cleveland Cavaliers

In basketball history, the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers haven’t been presented with such a dynamic, electric and must-see rivalry as they possess now, following three straight NBA Final appearances from the two teams. The Warriors, commonly referred to as the NBA’s “super team,” have been the superior of the two, swiftly taking two of the past three potential championship opportunities. Nevertheless, the two teams have solidified themselves, separately and as a unit, to being formidable forces on the court; this Christmas game proved to be no different than the rest. Although both sides were forced to play without a key superstar, the Cavs missing point guard Isaiah Thomas and the Warriors without two-time MVP point guard Stephen Curry, this match-up remained competitive to the final seconds of the fourth quarter.

“It really was an impressive game. Both teams put a lot of pressure on each other,” sophomore Rodney Michel said.

Throughout the entirety of the game, the Warriors and the Cavs were within a possession of each other in terms of scoring. Golden State ultimately emerged victorious with a 99-92 win.

Kevin Durant, a small forward for the Warriors, solidified his standing as a Defensive Player of the Year candidate by tallying five blocks, two of which came in the later half of the fourth quarter, accompanied by 25 points and 5 rebounds.

Kevin Love, a power forward for the Cavs on the other end of the court, certainly had an unforgettable game of his own with an outstanding stat line of 31 points and 18 rebounds.

Despite the losses the two teams were enduring (Curry for the Warriors, Thomas and Derrick Rose for the Cavaliers), the game surely set the tone for a potential fourth straight NBA Finals appearance for both sides.

Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder

The Oklahoma City Thunder have been a disappointingly under-performing team in this NBA season. With the off-season additions of Paul George from the Pacers and Carmelo Anthony from the New York Knicks, the Thunder walked into this season with star-studded confidence. However, they’ve been faced with a rather bumpy road and haven’t able to gather any success with consistency. On the other hand, the Houston Rockets have been flourishing this year under the leadership of Chris Paul and yet another MVP-caliber season from James Harden. Coming into Christmas Day however, the Thunder had been riding a 4-game win streak: finally showing some signs of coming out from the disappointing beginning to their season. The match-up between these two teams exemplified this as the Thunder remained hot with a 112-107 win over the Rockets.

Russell Westbrook led the way for Oklahoma City with a double-double, scoring 31 points to go along with 11 assists, aided by Paul George’s 24 points and Carmelo Anthony’s 20. The victory propelled the Thunder to their fifth straight win, as well as their 11th out of their previous 14 games.

“It’s really nice to see the Thunder starting to play like themselves again. I’m excited for what’s on its way for their future,” freshman Jose Gonzalez said.

Despite the loss, James Harden tallied 29 points, after two straight games in which he scored 51, and Clint Capela contributed a double-double of his own with 19 points and 10 rebounds.

Washington Wizards and Boston Celtics

The intense and prolonged rivalry between the Wizards and the Celtics remains true after a high-scoring match-up on Christmas Day. Although the two competitors are significantly different within their rosters compared to last season during the Eastern Conference Finals, their rematch on Christmas felt reminiscent of the previous years. Neither side missed a beat throughout the game, which ultimately resulted in the Wizards and the Celtics compiling 111 and 103 points respectively.

John Wall, point guard of the Wizards, had an exemplary performance with 21 points and 14 rebounds. Kyrie Irving, point guard of the Celtics, attempted to balance out this offensive onslaught with 20 points and 5 rebounds of his own.

However, the statistics provided by these two star players were minimized by their one-on-one.

Wall excelled in converting his defense into offense on the other side of the court with his premier passing and rebounding talents. Meanwhile, Irving maneuvered around his defenders left and right, seemingly defying gravity with his play making ability.

All in all, the overall ferocity of both sides contributed to an eventful and memorable game turning in favor of the Wizards.

As the holidays come to a close, the NBA season will be reaching its climax as it approaches the All-Star Game. Click here to check out all news pertaining to all things basketball!