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Twelve Days of Christmas and Fun with Box Scores

There have been some fun numbers leading up to Christmas.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Denver Nuggets Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone knows the words to Twelve Days of Christmas, including the gift for the Fifth Day: ”Five golden riiiiiiings...” When I was younger (an odd phrase in itself because I have been younger than today my entire life), I assumed that the Five Golden Rings were actual golden rings. Later, after the Redemption Finals against the Miami Heat, I believed that the Five Golden Rings referred to the five NBA Champion rings that the Spurs had won. But just this week, proving that you can learn something new every day, I learned the truth. The Golden Rings on the Fifth Day refer to a bird — the ring-necked pheasant. And it makes sense in light of the other early gifts:

7 Swans a Swimming

6 Geese a Laying

5 Golden Rings

4 Calling Birds

3 French Hens

2 Turtle Doves

and a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

Not until Day Eight does the song move off of various birds with 8 Maids a Milking. So the true meaning of the Five Golden Rings makes sense, with all the other birds.

Beginning with a discussion of the Twelve Days of Christmas also makes sense here. As long-time readers know, this ex-coach loves looking at box scores. Indeed, one of my first posts was entitled How a Coach Reads a Box Score, and the final twelve days before this year’s Christmas have had some very cool box scores.

Perhaps the most awesome was Nikola Jokic’s line from the Nuggets’ recent win over the Wizards — 47 points, 27 rebounds and 10 assists. The Joker became the first player since Wilt Chamberlin to record 40+ points, 25+ rebounds, and 10+ assists in a game since Wilt Chamberlain. Anytime you can be the firs person to do something since Wilt (or Babe Ruth, or Wayne Gretzky, or the Beatles for that matter), you have done something very special.

But while that game got a lot of well-deserved publicity, Joker’s December 20 game against the Grizzlies six days later was also very cool: 13 points, 13 rebounds and 13 assists. The Unlucky Triple Double! (Though the Nuggets did win.) It reminded me of two similar games from the past — Robert Horry’s 8/8/8 “Triple Snowman” game for the Lakers, and Kyle Anderson’s 5/5/5 “Triple Nickel” game for the Spurs.

The defending champion Warriors had an interesting game against the Nets. The Warriors shot 50% in the first half. Pretty good, right? Unfortunately, that good shooting translated into only 51 points. This meant that the Warriors were down by forty points because the Nets scored 91 — in the first half. The second half was much kinder to the Warriors, as they outscored the Nets, cutting the final deficit to “only” 30, losing 143 - 113. For the game, the Nets had nine (!) players in double figures, plus one with 9 and another with 8 points. The Nets also shot 21 for 33 from three. The Warriors’ young center had one of the best garbage time games ever, with 30 points in 28 minutes on 12 for 14 shooting.

The same night, Giannis Antetokounmpo had a dominant game, with 45 points and 14 rebounds. Despite that, the Bucks lost to the Cavs as the Bucks second leading scorer had only 14. Jason Tatum could commiserate with Giannis, as Tatum scored 41 points (13 for 25 from the floor, 11 for 13 on free throws) but his Celtics lost anyway to the Pacers.

Maybe they should have scored 50 if they wanted to win — Pascal Siakam had 52 points in the Raptors’s win over the Knicks. Sikiam also had 9 boards and 7 assists. Damn, that is a good game. And all four of these games happened on the same night, Wednesday, December 21. NBA action — it’s FanTastic.

But like a late-night commercial, we say “But wait, there’s more!” Friday night, December 23, also had some great performances. Because I had to watch the Magic feed of their win over the Spurs, I got the benefit of this screen shot:

That was Cole Anthony’s line before the game was even over. Anthony wound up with 23 points on 8 for 10 from the floor, making all four of his three-pointers, with 10 boards and 9 assists — all from a player who didn’t even start the game. He definitely wins Sixth Man of the Night. Spurs Fans certainly appreciate a good sixth man. Manu!!

Much as it pains me, I also have to acknowledge that James Harden had a great box score line, with 20 points, 11 boards and 21 assists. 21 is a ton. It seems like a bunch of those assists went to Joel Embed, who scored a cool 44. Interestingly, none of Harden’s assists went to P.J. Tucker, who did not take or make a single shot: No twos, no threes, no free throws. P.J. also had zero assists, though he did snare two rebounds in his 20 minutes.

In related news, P.J. Tucker will get paid over $10,000,000 this season.

Other players had great games Friday night. The vastly underrated Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 44 points on 29 shots, with 10 boards and 6 assists in OKC’s overtime loss to the Pelicans. In another losing effort R.J. Barrett of the Knicks also scored 44 on only 20 shots, making eight twos and every one of his six threes. Wow.

But Barrett was not the only player to go 14 for 20 Friday night. Tyrese Halliburton did the same, also going 10 for 16 from three, scoring 43 in the Pacers win. Another wow, though his ten threes was one less than my career high (which admittedly did not occur in an NBA game).

Remarkably, none of these were the best individual effort of the night. No, that happened in Houston, where Luka Doncic had a 50 point near triple double, with 8 rebounds and 10 assists. No one else on the Mavs scored more than 11. I wonder how Santa feels about that, but because the Mavs won, Luka will still likely receive a partridge in a pear tree for his troubles.