There was no shortage of star power on display for NBA Christmas Day. Even with a few key players out due to health and safety protocols, All-Stars Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden, and LeBron James highlighted an entertaining five-game slate.
But while the superstars earned the headlines, there were many unheralded performances deserving of recognition. So whether you were fixated on the stars, or simply too busy opening presents to notice, there were four underrated Christmas performances worth highlighting.
4. Bogdanovic helps the Jazz down the Mavericks
In the last of a thrilling five-game bonanza, the Utah Jazz held on to beat the Dallas Mavericks 120-116. Donovan Mitchell led the way with 33 points, but Bojan Bogdanovic had an impressive and efficient performance in his own right.
Bogdanovic made the most of his time on the court, scoring 25 points in just over 25 minutes. The 32-year-old was 9-of-14 from the field and 4-of-8 from beyond the arc, the fourth straight game and sixth of the last seven in which he went 45% or better from three.
Only Mitchell had more points for the Jazz than Bogdanovic. But with Spida’s inefficient 11-of-26 output from the field, the overall effectiveness of the Bosnian forward played a huge role in Utah’s third straight victory.
3. Williams III does all the dirty work for Celtics
After leading for the majority of the game, the Boston Celtics fell 117-113 to the Milwaukee Bucks. But they can’t pin the loss on Robert Williams III, who gave the C’s a winning performance in nearly 40 minutes of work.
As stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown each dropped 25 points, Williams chipped in a modest 11. But the fourth-year center had only two missed shots in addition to 14 rebounds, four assists, and a pair of blocks. And at +3, he was Boston’s only starter with a positive plus-minus.
Even if it was in a losing effort, Williams was a big reason why Boston nearly won. Through 25 games, the 24-year-old looks like he’s worth the four-year, $48 million extension he received last offseason.
2. Warriors’ supporting cast dazzles versus Suns
Stephen Curry did normal Stephen Curry things, dropping 33 points in the Golden State Warriors‘ 116-107 win over the Phoenix Suns. But it was Golden State’s shorthanded supporting cast that helped the Dubs move to 27-6 on the season.
With Andrew Wiggins, Jordan Poole, and Damion Lee all out, all four of Golden State’s non-Curry starters produced at a high level. Draymond Green filled up the stat sheet with eight points, 10 assists, eight rebounds, three steals, and three blocks. Gary Payton II had 14 points and eight rebounds, while Otto Porter had 13 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter. Even center Kevon Looney had eight points and 10 rebounds in the win.
Saturday represents a small sliver of what the Warriors have been doing all season. It’s a next-man-up mentality for the West’s top-seeded team, as they have proven time and time again that they are more than just Curry.
1. Mills goes off for the Nets
No Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving? No problem for Patty Mills and the Brooklyn Nets, who defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 122-115.
Mills dropped a season-high 34 points in Brooklyn’s first game since December 18. The 33-year-old was 11-of-17 from the field, with eight of his makes coming from three. It was a great bounceback performance from Patty’s last game, in which the Australian went just 2-of-14 from distance.
The veteran guard was torching the Lakers throughout, scoring 13 points in the first quarter and another nine in the fourth. His +19 was also the strongest on the team. So even with Harden securing an impressive 36-point triple-double, Brooklyn doesn’t win without the underrated brilliance of Mills.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.