NBA Christmas Day: Nikola Jokic, Jayson Tatum, Luka Doncic shine in wins; LeBron James worthy tip of the hat

The NBA’s five-game Christmas schedule is in the books, and it ended with a bang as the Denver Nuggets needed overtime to outlast the visiting Phoenix Suns, 128-125.

In today’s opener, the 76ers dominated the second half to defeat the Knicks, 119-112, which was followed by the Mavericks taking out the Lakers, 124-115, behind a 51-point third quarter. The Boston Celtics ran away from the Milwaukee Bucks with a 139-118 victory, and the depleted Golden State Warriors made a statement with a 123-109 victory over the full-strength Memphis Grizzlies.

Below are the best Christmas Day performances.

Nikola Jokic: 41 points, 15 assists, 15 rebounds

Jokic is out here putting up Wilt numbers. For the second time in a week, he posted a triple-double of 40 points. (And in the second game, against Charlotte, he had 27 rebounds.) He shot 64 percent from the field against Phoenix, including 2 of 4 from beyond the arc and 7 of 9 from the free throw line. The Nuggets have won seven of their last eight, are now in possession of the Western Conference’s No. 1 seed, and Jokic has to be the MVP front-runner.

Jayson Tatum: 41 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists

When it’s a primetime matchup, you can pretty much count on Tatum going off these days, and going toe-to-toe with Giannis Antetokounmpo certainly qualifies.

Tatum was lethal from all three levels on Sunday, hitting 3-of-7 from deep, 3-of-4 from mid-range and 8-of-11 in the paint. He went 10 for 10 from the free throw line, where he is posting a career-high 8.5 attempts per game this season.

Jordan Poole: 32 points in 29 minutes

Poole entered Christmas averaging 28 points in games Stephen Curry hasn’t played, and he continued that trend Sunday with 32 points in just 29 minutes. Poole was clearly in cooking mode early on, fidgeting all over to create shots and moving without the ball for catch-and-shoots. He had a shot at 40, but was ejected for picking up a second technical foul midway through the fourth quarter.

Luka Doncic: 32 points, 9 assists, 9 rebounds

Doncic was measured in his typical brilliance, methodically piecing together this ho-hum night on just 16 shots (12 of 16 free throws) and holding the Lakers to within nine fourth-quarter points. This fake Doncic threw at Wenyen Gabriel was pretty funny.

Joel Embiid: 35 points, 8 rebounds

Embiid finished 12 of 22 from the field and got to the line 15 times, sinking 10. He worked from his office, put the ball on the floor from the free throw line extended/elbow range, and he got his midrange jumper, which has been effective all year, with 15 points in third quarter before Philly went on a 24-9 run over most of the fourth quarter.

Harden has been fantastic since returning to the lineup, and he again got everything going on Christmas for a Sixers team that has won eight straight. He finished with five 3-pointers and matched Embiid with 10 free throws. Harden in pick and roll is still an almost guaranteed quality shot. Harden has tallied a remarkable 34 assists over his last two games.

Christian Wood: 30 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists

Threes coming off the bench have been an important point of discussion all season. He’s started the last five and it’s going to be hard to send him back to the bench after games like this. The seven assists are a career high for Wood, as are the four steals he added to the streak. When Wood plays 30 minutes or more, he averages 24 and 10 boards. Since he became a starter, he is averaging 18 and nine. Dallas needs his firepower, and the pairing with Doncic is ideal offensively.

Hat tips in defeat

  • LeBron James: LeBron did all he could with Anthony Davis still sidelined, posting 38 points, six rebounds and five assists on 13-of-23 shooting, including 12-of-12 from the free throw line. He committed just two turnovers and the Lakers were on the positive side of his 34 minutes. LeBron has now scored at least 30 points in his last seven games.
  • Julius Randle: Randle came out on fire, hitting four of his first six 3-pointers through a quarter and a half. He was shut out from deep after that by still winding up with 35 points and eight boards. Randle has played well for most of the season, averaging 31 and 11 over his last three, but the Knicks, after winning eight straight, have dropped each of those three.
  • Yes Morant: Morant finished with 32 points, eight assists and seven rebounds on better than 50 percent shooting, but it wasn’t enough as Desmond Bane turned in a nine-point performance on 0-of-7 from 3 in his second game back after missing 17 competitions. .

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