Christmas Day hoops

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Jude P. Roque

Jude P. Roque

Christmas is huge here in the Philippines. Even as the Holiday season is celebrated in most parts of the world, nothing quite compares to the festivities all over the Philippine islands. The country’s No. 1 sport—basketball—is now a major part of the celebrations, like a jumbo Christmas gift to Pinoys.

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Both the National Basketball Association (NBA) and Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) hold games on Christmas Day as a treat to the fans. It’s particularly great this year as weather forecasts said super typhoon “Nina” (or Nock-ten) would make landfall on Christmas Day. At least our countrymen could just stay indoors and enjoy the exciting games on TV.

So on Christmas Day yesterday, the NBA offered a five-game extravaganza headed by the rematch of last year’s finalists Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors at Cleveland. The Cavs-Warriors game marked the eighth time the previous season’s championship protagonists met on Christmas Day. The first was in 1995 when the Orlando Magic faced the Houston Rockets. Other games yesterday were Boston Celtics-New York Knicks, Chicago Bulls-San Antonio Spurs, Minnesota Timberwolves-Oklahoma City (OKC) Thunder, and the Battle of Los Angeles between the Lakers and Clippers.

Interestingly, the Knicks played on the very first Christmas Day offering in 1947, which was just the NBA’s second season. They nipped the Providence Steamrollers in Madison Square Garden (MSG), 89-75.
Yesterday was the Knicks’ 51st Christmas Day appearance, the most by any NBA team. They have a 22-28 win-loss record. Their 22 wins are also the most in the NBA by any team on Christmas Day, but so are their 28 losses. The Knicks also have the record for worst defeat on Christmas Day by a home squad, when they got thrashed by OKC, 94-123, at the MSG in 2013. Boston, on the other hand, played in 29 December 25 matches, with a 12-17 card. On December 25, 1984, New York’s Bernard King scorched the hoop with 60 points for the all-time highest score recorded by an individual on a Christmas Day game.

Kobe Bryant, who retired last season, holds the record for most accumulated Christmas Day points in the NBA with 395 markers. Not too far behind are Dwayne Wade and Lebron James with 277 and 270 points respectively. Speaking of Kobe, one of the most anticipated Christmas Day encounters was the 2004 LA Lakers versus Miami Heat clash, when Shaquille O’Neal had just been traded to the Heat following a feud with former Lakers teammate Bryant. Shaq fouled out in the fourth quarter but his Heat scored the overtime victory after Kobe missed the game-winning attempt. Miami is 10-2 on Christmas Day games.

Former Portland Trailblazers coach Dr. Jack Ramsay and multi-titled mentor Phil Jackson share the most Christmas Day victories by a coach with 11 each. Because of all the successful Christmas Day games, the NBA decided to assign the best teams to play each other on December 25 of each year.

Over here in the PBA, the two most popular teams – Ginebra San Miguel and Star Hotshots – squared off on Christmas Day yesterday for the second straight time since their playoff battle last year, which set a new Mall of
Asia PBA crowd record of 21,808. Ginebra came back from 18 points down to boot out Star from the quarterfinalson December 25, 2015 via an LA Tenorio buzzer beater. These two teams’ rivalry is dubbed Manila Clasico, and is one of the most awaited combats in the PBA. It’s the first Manila Clasico game since long-time Star superstar James Yap was traded to Rain Or Shine for Paul Lee. The Star is now under the helm of first-year coach Chito Victolero, who coached Mahindra last season. Meanwhile, it’s Tim Cone’s second year with Ginebra as he hopes to follow up on the Kings’ amazing championship run last conference. Also tangling on Christmas Day yesterday were expansion teamsMahindra and Blackwater.

In 2002, the Coca-Cola Tigers won their first PBA crown on Christmas Day over the Alaska Aces, 3-1 of a best-of-five series, following a three-game sweep since dropping Game 1.

As of this writing, all Christmas Day games have not been concluded. This corner wishes everyone a very
Merry Christmas.

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