Talking Points: Christmas Day In The NBA

NBA Talking Points is a weekly series that runs down some of the top stories in basketball, and some that aren't being talked about enough. Click any of the links below to jump to one of this week's talking points, and click here for last week's edition.

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Get Ready For A Great Second Half

So for a few minutes in the first half, it looked like we could be headed for another clunker of a game. It wasn't even that Cleveland was playing that well... Just that the Lakers were giving the game away thanks to lazy offensive possessions, poor shooting from Kobe, and shoddy defense. Early in the second quarter, they went down 20 points, the fans started booing, and frankly, the players deserved it. It was just a piss-poor effort.

But then, that also may have been the tipping point. Where the crowd and the team collectively said, enough is enough. Quit screwing around, guys.

So Before you write this game off and switch to the NFL Network, consider: these are the Lakers, and they're 23-4 for a reason. If there's one team that can "turn it on" and get back in this game, it's L.A.

Plus, did you just see that interview with Magic Johnson tossing softball questions at Kobe Bryant? Did you notice that this is like the 15th consecutive year the Lakers have played a home game on Christmas Day? See that the Lakers have only been called for 3 fouls, while the Cavs have 12? Let's just say the NBA's got something invested in keeping the Lakers competitive. A 9-point deficit is nothing; this game's going down to the wire. It should be a classic. 

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"You hear me, refs? It's going to be a classic."

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How Lebron Could Be More Unstoppable

Earlier this year I wrote about Kobe Bryant's new post game, and how he might wind up being one of the better post-up guards in the history of the game. There's really no telling how long he could be effective playing that style--as opposed to careening through the lane like some of his peers--and it's not a stretch to think that his new skills could extend his reign over the NBA for at least 2-3 more years. As I wrote then:

Kobe’s got the size and skills to play just about however he wants, and that makes him a perfect candidate to be a dominant post player. And the scary part is, he’s just scratching the surface. As the years pass, he’ll continue to master the art, and with characteristic savvy, could wind up being one of the tougher post-up guards in history.

And of course, as a diehard Wizards fan, I had to end with a little note to Kobe:

Also: Please Kobe, don’t teach any of this shit to Lebron.

As good as Kobe's postgame could make him, Lebron is a whole 'nother story. Kobe's new wrinkles have a chance to extend his career and keep him dominant longer than any of us expected; Lebron's post-game would be a way to define his dominance. Lebron's closest analog in the NBA is Shaquille O'Neal--not because of how they play, but how they're built. Both are guys that just defy belief. There's not a single player that can hang with James.

And while Lebron's been reluctant to adopt a post-game, every now and then he reminds us that, if he wanted to, he could just be laughably unstoppable. Watch the position he got on Ron Artest before an easy layup:

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It prompted announcer Jeff Van Gundy to say: "You wonder... If Lebron James ducked in [the lane] like this every time, to the post... Who could handle him?" Hmm. That's a pretty good question.

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It's Been A Rough Day; Lakers And Cavs, It's Your Move

Well the first game of the day, between New York and Miami, featured the following players that saw significant minutes: Larry Hughes, Chris Duhon, Jared Jefferies, Jermaine O'Neal, Al Harrington, and Quentin Richardson. Just a murderer's row of dashed expectations, bloated salaries, and painfully mediocre basketball. Al Harrington led the way in terms of bone-chilling mediocrity, notching 12 points on an impressive 5-20 shooting, including 0-7 from three point range. Matches his jersey number. HI-YOOOOOOOO! 95020272_medium

Then there was the abortion of a game that just took place in Orlando. The final tally was 39 combined turnovers and 37% shooting, but that really doesn't do it justice. As video emerges, we'll post that here, but for now, let's just all agree to never speak of this game again. Cleveland and L.A., we need you now more than ever. Don't disappont us, guys.

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The NBA: Where Defense Happens!

Well it’s a pretty perfect time to air this commercial if you’re the NBA:

The fourth quarter began with Orlando leading 61-53, and while the above commercial is proof that defense can be cool, too, this game’s been proof that a battle of two defenses is much better in theory than in practice. So far, we've had 40 personal fouls and almost as many turnovers. Let’s hope the fourth quarter (finally) features some fireworks. Or maybe just competence. Come on… It’s Christmas!

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Ray Allen Is One Of The Classiest People In The NBA

Really, there’s not much more to say. The title explains my stance on this one. Here, a segment from ABC’s halftime show details his family’s struggles with diabetes:

Thanks to Jose3030 for the clip.

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Orlando: Not Ready For Prime Time Players

Want to see a weird stat? Orlando is 2-5 on National TV, and 20-2 elsewhere. That statistic comes courtesy of our excellent Orlando Magic blogger, Ben Q. Rock. And I'm sure it's a coincidence--last year's playoffs were on National TV, too, and they did pretty well. But this year in prime time, it's been quite a struggle. Today's been worse than most. Will they crack 50 points before the fourth quarter?

And besides, it's not all bad. The original "Not Ready For Prime Time Players" went to on to form one of the most successful shows in television history. Saturday Night Live.

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So I guess this means Stan Van Gundy is Lorne Michaels, Dwight Howard's on the verge of developing a drug problem, and Vince Carter is Chevy Chase, the talented guy that everyone secretly loathes. Vince Carter is definitely Chevy Chase.

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Magic Johnson Speaks For America

Stuart Scott: "So tell me, Magic, what’s wrong with the Orlando Magic?

Magic Johnson echoes everyone’s sentiments: “Quite frankly, I’m waiting on Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest…I’m gonna have to no-look pass that question to someone else.”

It’s not that the Celtics and Magic are “bad”, necessarily; but man, when Orlando’s not hitting from the perimeter, they sure are tough to watch. And Boston, for all the marvels of Rajon Rondo and his steadfast defiance of point guard conventions, is just as bad. Because even when the Celtics are hitting on all cylinders, it all starts with playing suffocating defense.

And even for the greatest NBA lovers, watching a quarter like the second quarter in Orlando is like watching snow melt. Boston held Orlando to just 8 points and scored just 20 points themselves. That's not fun.

Take me to Hollywood, bring on Lebron and Kobe.

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Magic And Celtics: Are These Teams Drunk?

Now, to be fair, I just got done with presents and Christmas brunch, so I missed the first few minutes. Maybe something happened on the court that turned everyone on the Celtics and Magic into members of the Charlotte Bobcats. But if not that, then what's going on here? These guys are good on defense, but not that good. Look at the numbers:

Team              FG           %

Orlando          9-33         27.5%

Boston            9-24        37.5%

Oof. Boston's numbers are inflated by two lay-ups in the past minute, by the way. The teams have also combined for 25 turnovers. COME ON! Stan and Doc, do you guys know this is the first time millions of Americans are watching NBA basketball this year? You do, right? Let's loosen the reins a little bit!

Whether it's the defense or the mid-day start or... whatever it is, let's hope Boston and Orlando can get this figured out. So far, the highlight of the afternoon has been the new Charles Barkley commercial with Dwight Howard.

"I don't run, because I get tired."

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"I don't lift weights, because they're heavy."

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