Eagles win, will stay home through NFC playoffs
It wasn’t the Eagles’ prettiest victory of the year, but their 19-10 victory over the Raiders gave Philadelphia fans a treasured Christmas gift as midnight approached—home playoff games for as long as the Eagles remain in the coming NFC playoffs. It’s the fourth time that the Eagles have earned the NFC’s top seed in the playoffs (the league began seeding its playoff participants based on their regular-season records in 1975), with the other three instances coming in succession from 2002 to 2004. Those Eagles, with Andy Reid as head coach and Donovan McNabb as starting quarterback, lost consecutive NFC Championship Games at home to Tampa Bay and Carolina before reaching Super Bowl XXXIX in February 2005, losing to New England.
The Raiders didn’t commit a turnover in the first half, but committed five in the second half, making the result all but inevitable. The last 26 NFL teams that had followed a turnover-free first half by committing at least five turnovers after halftime had all lost, a number increased by one on Monday night. The last NFL team to win such a game did so back in the Reagan Administration—the first term. On Sept. 25, 1983, Tom Landry’s Cowboys defeated the Saints, 21-20, despite committing six turnovers (all in the second half), on a go-ahead safety in the last two minutes of the game.
Ben wins his 200th game and ties a record for wins
Ben Roethlisberger celebrated his 200th regular-season NFL game by throwing a pair of touchdown passes in the Steelers’ 34-6 victory at Houston. Ben was playing without Antonio Brown for the first time since Nov. 12, 2012, but he didn’t appear to miss Brown. Ben joined Mike Webster (220), Hines Ward (217), Donnie Shell (201) and Mel Blount (200) in the Steelers’ 200-Games Club, and the victory left Ben with a personal won-lost record of 136-64 over those 200 games. The victory at Houston allowed Roethlisberger to tie Ward’s team record of playing in 136 wins.
It was the second consecutive Christmas Day win for the Steelers, who nipped the Ravens, 31-27, last December 25. Pittsburgh became the first team in NFL history to play Christmas Day games in each of two straight seasons, let alone win them both.
Green’s triple-double helps W’s to a W, and ties a record
Draymond Green produced his first triple-double of the season and the Warriors held off a fourth-quarter Cavaliers rally to earn a 99-92 victory in a rematch of the last three NBA Finals. For Green, who had 13 triple-doubles in the 2015-16 season and five more last season, it was the 20th triple-double of his NBA career, tying the Warriors record held since the early 1960s by Tom Gola. Gola achieved all 20 of his NBA triple-doubles while playing for the Philadelphia Warriors, before the team moved west in 1962. Among the 24 players who have racked up at least 20 triple-doubles in the NBA, Green is the only player whose career scoring average (9.1) is below 10 points per game.
Big Three comes up big for OKC
The Thunder’s “big three”—Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony—brought their A-game to a meeting with the Rockets, and Oklahoma City came away the winners, 112-107. Those three veterans combined for 75 points while making 54.9 percent of their field-goal attempts. In no other game this season have Westbrook, George and Anthony combined to score as many points while also hitting as high a percentage of their shots.
Harden: 131 points, 0 wins, in last 3 games
James Harden scored 29 points for the Rockets on Monday night, lifting his total to 131 points over the last three games, each of which Houston has lost, and on the heels of a 14-game winning streak, no less. Harden is only the second player over the last 20 NBA seasons who has scored as many as 130 points over three straight games that his team has played, with each game resulting in a loss. The other player to do that was Russell Westbrook, who generated 135 points over a three-game span in March of this year, with the Thunder losing each of those contests.
Harden also tied a Rockets record for most points over a span of three consecutive team games, all losses. Back in March of 1978, Calvin Murphy scored 131 points over three straight games, each of which Houston lost.
Wall spoils the fun of Celtics’ first Christmas home game
The Celtics, now in their 72nd season, finally hosted their first Christmas Day game on Monday, but the Wizards spoiled the party by pulling off a 111-103 victory. John Wall seemed to be everywhere that Washington needed him, finishing with 21 points and a game-high 14 assists. Wall nearly duplicated the numbers that he had produced in his only previous game on Christmas Day: He contributed 24 points and 11 assists to a Wizards victory in New York in 2014. The Wizards franchise has now played 23 games on Christmas Day, and Wall is the only player to produce a 20-point, 10-assist game in any of them—and he now has done that twice.
Prior to Monday’s game, the Celtics had played 30 Christmas Day games, all away from Boston. Twenty-eight of them were road games, and two were neutral-court games played in New York as part of those old all-NBA doubleheaders.
Embiid and Redick propel Sixers
Joel Embiid (25 points, 16 rebounds) and JJ Redick (24 points) were the biggest factors in the 76ers’ 105-98 victory at New York. Embiid finished ahead of Kristaps Porzingis in both points and rebounds (the Knicks’ young star had 22 and 7), though not quite as emphatically as Embiid had done in their one previous meeting, back on January 11. In that contest, Embiid outscored Porzingis, 21-7, and outrebounded him, 14-2. Meanwhile, Redick connected on all eight of his free-throw attempts, running his streak of consecutive free throws made to 45, the longest current streak in the NBA.
Kanter’s game evokes Ewing, 28 years ago
Enes Kanter had a game to remember on Monday, providing the Knicks with 31 points and 22 rebounds, though in a losing cause. It was the first 30-point, 20-rebounds performance by a Knicks player since April 2, 2010, when David Lee finished with 37 points and 20 rebounds in a loss to the Warriors in Oakland. And it had been more than 28 years since the last time that a Knicks player reached the precise numbers achieved by Kanter—in other words, at least 31 points and at least 22 rebounds—in a regulation-length game. That was none other than Patrick Ewing, who produced 44 points and 24 rebounds, also against the Warriors, on Nov. 29, 1989.
Timberwolves score 38 in 4th and beat Lakers… again
Jamal Crawford (10 points) and Karl-Anthony Towns (eight) combined to score the Timberwolves’ first 18 points of the fourth quarter, turning a narrow 83-80 lead into a 101-88 advantage that Minnesota parleyed into a 121-104 victory over the Lakers. Minnesota’s total of 38 fourth-quarter points was its highest in a victory since November 13 of last year, when the Wolves scored an identical total, also in a victory over the Lakers.