Christmas Day Action
December 24, 2012
By Kevin Rogers
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The tradition of basketball games on Christmas has picked up over the last few years, going from two or three contests to now games from early in the day through late night. The Heat and Thunder renew acquaintances in the 5:30 PM EST battle from South Florida, while the Clippers go for their 14th straight win when the Nuggets invade Staples Center. We'll start with the two matinee affairs, including a division rivalry in Brooklyn which has heated up this season.
Celtics at Nets - 12:00 PM EST
The two clubs trailing the Knicks in the Atlantic Division meet for the third time this season, as Boston has failed to beat Brooklyn in two tries. Both these squads have been poor against the number recently with both the Nets and Celtics compiling 1-5 ATS record the last six games.
Each of the two previous meetings have centered around Celtics' point guard Rajon Rondo. The feisty All-Star missed the first matchup at Barclays Center on November 15 with a sprained ankle, as the Nets held off the Celtics, 102-97 as five-point favorites. The 'over' of 190 was never in doubt, as the two teams combined for 109 points in the first half. The Nets shot just 42% from the floor, but Brook Lopez clogged the middle with a 24-point effort on 11-of-14 shooting.
The next matchup at TD Garden on November 28 provided plenty of fireworks as Rondo was ejected in the second quarter following an altercation with Brooklyn's Kris Humphries. The Nets' forward fouled Kevin Garnett, as Rondo took exception to the roughness of the foul with a shove of Humphries. The Celtics never recovered as they fell to the Nets, 95-83 as 3 ½-point 'chalk,' in spite of holding Brooklyn to 40% shooting. Only one Nets' starter finished with double-figures, but Jerry Stackhouse came off the bench to drill five three-pointers, while Andray Blatche and C.J. Watson combined to score 30 points.
As far as the ATS struggles of late go for these two teams, something needs to change. The Celtics rallied to force overtime against the Bucks on Wednesday, but lost for the fourth time in five games, 99-94. Boston needs to get on track away from TD Garden, as the C's have dropped seven of their last eight on the road (1-6-1 ATS).
The Nets aren't much better in this department, as Brooklyn failed to cover as six-point favorites in Sunday's 95-92 victory over Philadelphia. Avery Johnson's team has cashed just two of the last 11 games overall, while putting together an 0-6 ATS record as a favorite in this span. From a totals perspective, the Nets' slow pace has turned them into a solid 'under' bet by cashing in four straight contests.
Knicks at Lakers - 3:00 PM EST
Los Angeles is used to playing in the Christmas spotlight, but not accustomed to sitting below .500 at this point of the season. Kobe Bryant will be playing in his record 15th game on December 25 in his career, as he looks to get the Lakers a nice Christmas gift by reaching the .500 point with their fifth consecutive win. The Knicks have seen some ups and downs following a strong start, as New York has split its last four games since a 9-1 run from Thanksgiving until December 15.
The Lakers picked up their fourth straight victory after rallying past the Warriors on Saturday night in overtime, 118-115 as 1 ½-point road favorites. Steve Nash made his first appearance in the Los Angeles lineup since the second game of the season at Portland with 12 points and nine assists, but the L.A. bench stepped up. Metta World Peace scored 20 points, while Jodie Meeks and Jordan Hill combined to put up 26 points for L.A.'s second win over Golden State this season.
The Knicks slugged their way to a 94-91 home triumph over the Timberwolves on Sunday, but failed to cash as eight-point favorites. The defense has fallen off a bit as of late for Mike Woodson's team, allowing at least 100 points in four of the last six games, including 110 points to Chicago on Friday night. Now, the Knicks head west for a three-game road trip that also goes to Phoenix and Sacramento.
New York put together one of its most impressive wins of the season on December 13 at Madison Square Garden, topping Los Angeles, 116-107 as 5 ½-point favorites. The Lakers made the game interesting in the end, but the Knicks put on a scoring barrage in the first quarter with a 41-point outburst, including 22 points from Carmelo Anthony. The Knicks led by 19 at the half before the Lakers cut the deficit to six points with less than two minutes remaining. New York iced the game at the line to prevent a backdoor cover by Los Angeles, but the Knicks head into Tuesday's contest with five consecutive losses at Staples Center.
You can reach Kevin Rogers via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Kevin Rogers can be followed on Twitter at virogers.
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