GAME OF THE WEEK: Oklahoma City at Miami, Dec. 25. The Thunder clearly have been more motivated and focused than the Heat this season and should be the more ticked-off team, having to spend Christmas Eve and Day away from their loved ones. But they lost all four games in Miami last season and have to show the Heat they can win there to get the undivided attention of the defending champions.
GAME OF THE WEAK: New Orleans at Charlotte, Dec. 29. The Hornets could be riding a 13-game slide if they can’t beat the Raptors at home the previous night. The Bobcats almost certainly will be up to 17 straight losses. This will be like watching the NBA Finals on ‘shrooms.
TWO MINUTES: In case you haven’t noticed, the Bobcats are stuck on seven wins again. Last season, Charlotte was locked at seven wins for the final 23 games and 40 days of the season en route to the worst winning percentage in NBA history. This season, the Bobcats got off to a surprisingly quick start, needing just 12 games to match their win total from last season. But that was 30 days ago; Charlotte has lost 15 straight games – four of the last six by 15 or more – and appears on the verge of regressing into last season’s acceptance of defeat. “There’s no doubt we’re teething,” coach Mike Dunlap said. … On. Dec. 10, the Blazers set a record by missing all 20 3-pointers they attempted in a win over Toronto. Just 10 days later, the Nuggets broke the record by shooting 0-of-22 from the arc in a loss to the Blazers. … Think the Sixers missed Jrue Holiday? In their loss at Houston on Wednesday, rookie point guard Maalik Wayns dribbled through a thicket of players and whipped a pass to the perimeter – to referee Bennett Salvatore. In Holiday’s first game back, Philadelphia stopped a five-game skid and tied a season high with 31 assists. “I think you can see the difference that Jrue makes in our team,” coach Doug Collins said. “He just gives us a settling presence. Offensively, things are smoother.” The Sixers are going to need Holiday just to stay in the playoff hunt; they don’t play at home again until Jan. 8 with stops at Memphis, Golden State, Los Angeles (Lakers), Oklahoma City and San Antonio. … Atlanta’s DeShawn Stevenson had a dunk in the third quarter of Tuesday’s win over Washington. Not really that big a deal except when you consider it was his first 2-point basket in 12 games over 27 days. His last 25 buckets were 3-pointers. … Last season, the Celtics allowed 100 points nine times. That stat certainly was helped by the league-wide drop in offense created by the lockout. But the C’s have allowed 100 points 11 times in 26 games this season, and it’s hard to rationalize that Avery Bradley (21 mpg last season) and Greg Steimsma (14 mpg) impacted Boston’s defense that much. A better explanation is that the Celtics – despite the addition of Jeff Green, Courtney Lee and Jared Sullinger to the rotation – are older and slower, and when Rajon Rondo gambles on the top of the defense, he leaves a unit without a shot-blocker highly vulnerable. … When the Rockets dropped 121 on the Grizzlies on Saturday, it marked the first time since Opening Night that Memphis allowed 100 points, a stretch of 23 games. … Perhaps the most unlikely player to be averaging a double-double this season is Blazers forward J.J. Hickson, who was waived by Sacramento nine months ago. Hickson has rattled off eight straight double-doubles and is averaging 12.6 points and 11.0 boards this season. After showing Portland he wasn’t anywhere near done as a player in a 19-game stint last season, Hickson got a one-year, $4 million deal. If he keeps it up, he could get a lot more next summer in free agency. … Most players lie when asked about facing a former team and say it’s just another game. Not Warriors teammates Carl Landry and Jarrett Jack, who were pretty hyped to beat the Hornets on Tuesday. “Not for me. And I don’t think it was for him,” Landry said. “Jarrett was extra amped up, and I was too. We didn’t need a 5-Hour (Energy), we didn’t need a speech, we didn’t need nothing like that. We were ready to play yesterday.” Landry had 16 points and nine boards and Jack had 16 points and 10 assists. … When you start listing the best players in the NBA, you don’t get too far before coming to Russell Westbrook. But the Thunder point guard is in his fifth season and still has too many games where he looks like he’s playing AAU ball. In Thursday’s loss at Minnesota that ended Oklahoma City’s 12-game winning streak, Westbrook nearly had a triple-double with 30 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists. He also was personally responsible for as many as 27 empty possessions with 19 missed shots and eight turnovers.
Trivia Answer: New York’s Bernard King scored 60 points in a loss to New Jersey on Christmas 1984. … Happy 26th Birthday, Kyrylo Fesenko. … Wishing a very safe and happy holiday season to all, especially our readers. Thank you so much for your support.
Chris Bernucca is the deputy editor of SheridanHoops.com. His columns appear Monday during the season. You can follow him on Twitter.