Buckle up, NBA fans; Christmas games are here! As a perfect overture to creme de la creme of the NBA schedule, let's check out the Top 5 Christmas day performances over the last decade, hoping the list will require an update after tonight's games are over. For starters; here are some honorable mentions:
- Kyrie Irving vs. the Celtics in '20 - in his first game back at TD Garden, Kyrie Irving broke the Nets' Christmas day scoring record with 37 points -- 13-for-21 from the field, 7-for-10 from three. He added 6 rebounds and 8 assists, leading his team to a 123-95 victory over Boston
- James Harden vs. the Thunder in '18 - The Beard put up the 24th highest scoring Christmas day performance and the second-highest among active NBA players. He finished the game with 41 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists, and 2 steals, leading the Rockets to a 113-109 victory over Oklahoma. The only reason why Harden didn't make a list is his efficiency -- he went 15-for-35 from the field and 5-for-16 from the three-point line to go along with 6 turnovers.
- Joel Embiid vs. the Celtics in '18 - Embiid put up a monster double-double in a 121-114 loss to the Boston Celtics. He finished the contest with 34 points and 16 rebounds, shooting 10-for-17 from the field, 2-for-4 from the three-point line, and converting all of his 12 free throw attempts. But the Sixers lost; hence, Embiid is an "honorable mention."
- Rajon Rondo vs. the Knicks in '11 - Rondo is another one who's individual performance was overshadowed by his team failure. In a 106-104 loss to the Knicks, Rondo dropped 31 - 4 points shy of his career-high - and dished out 15 assists while being extremely efficient from the floor (11-19). Impressive; just not enough for Top 5.
- Monta Ellis vs. the TrailBlazers in '10 - other than Harden, Ellis is the other "honorable mention" whose team came out on top in their Christmas day matchup. He led the Warriors to a 109-102 win over Portland, dropping a game-high 39 points on .500/.600/.909 shooting splits. Once again impressive, but not as impressive as what the five listed below were able to do.
5. Kawhi Leonard vs. the Lakers in '19
Kawhi Leonard led the Clippers to a 111-106 victory against the Lakers -- their second straight regular-season win over their city rivals. He put up 35 points, 13 rebounds, and 5 assists, shooting 11-for-19 from the field, 5-for-7 from behind the line, and 8-for-8 from the charity stripe.
Leonard also had a great display on the defensive end of the floor, being one of the factors in holding LeBron to an inefficient 23-point scoring night, which proved to be a difference-maker towards the Clippers' 23rd win of the regular season.
4. Carmelo Anthony vs. the Celtics in '11
One man's loss is another man's gain. Chrismas day matchup in '11 was Rajon Rondo's loss and Carmelo Anthony's gain. Rondo put up a great individual performance, but a loss is what kept him off this list. Melo also put up a great individual performance, and he's on the list, thanks to a 106-104 victory by the Knicks.
Anthony finished the game with 37 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, and a block while shooting 10-for-17 from the floor, 4-for-7 from three, and 13-for-15 from the free-throw line. He also dropped a go-ahead bucket to put the Knicks up by 2, which proved to be a key moment for them winning a season-opener in a lockout-shortened 11/12 NBA season.
3. Kyrie Irving vs. the 76ers in '18
Kyrie Irving came up big for the Celtics in their Christmas day victory over the Sixers. He had a game-high 40 points, along with 10 rebounds, 2 assists, and a steal. Irving shot 17 of 33 from the floor, 5 of 10 from deep, and was flawless from the charity stripe, overshadowing Joel Embiid's "honorable mentions" worthy double-double.
Uncle Drew hit the shot to send a game into overtime, and he continued where he left off during the five extra minutes of the contest. He first nailed a three to put the Celtics up by one, following it up with another long-range jumper, making it a two-possession game with 1:28 left on the clock. The lead proved to be too much for the Sixers, as the Celtics closed out the game for their 20th win of the season.
2. LeBron James vs. the Mavericks in '11
Just over six months had passed since the Miami Heat fell to Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks in the '11 NBA Finals before the two teams met again on Christmas Day that same calendar year. And unlike that infamous six-game series, this time, LeBron James delivered.
He racked up an incredible all-around performance - 37 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks - leading Miami to a 105-94 win over the Mavs. James' efficiency was also up to par with the overall quality of his performance -- 11-for-19 from the floor, 15-for-19 from the free-throw line -- as he completed an incredible redemption display after a huge meltdown in the '11 NBA Finals.
1. Kevin Durant vs. the Nuggets in '10
Kevin Durant is the proud owner of the highest-scoring Christmas day performance among active NBA players. As a budding superstar with the Thunder, Durant dropped 44 points against the Denver Nuggets, leading his team to a 114-106 win - their 21st of the season. He also added 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks, for a complete all-around performance.
Over the course of the game, Durant shot .700 from the floor (14-20), .571 from deep (5-7), and .800 from the charity stripe (12-15). He exploded in the third quarter, scoring 21 of his 44 points to help the Thunder cross the finishing line. Thus KD cemented himself as the best single-game Christmas performer of the '10s; a title that is once again up for grabs in just a few hours. So let the games begin.