Thanks for joining us for theScore's Christmas Day live blog. Relive the action from Blazers-Jazz and Lakers-Warriors below, and from the early slate here.
That's a wrap for NBA on Christmas Day. The Knicks and Blazers laid duds in the first and last games of the night, but the three primetime games in-between were spectacular. Big ups to Wolfond for carrying the blog early on, and thanks to all the readers for following along throughout the night.
Have a safe and happy holidays!
Three stars for the Jazz: Gobert, Mitchell, Rubio
Three stars for the Blazers: Lillard, Turner, Curry
Gobert emphatically flushes a lob from Rubio and that's all she wrote for the Blazers. Utah controlled this match from start to finish, and it will likely end in a rout. It doesn't appear that the Blazers will bench their starters just about yet, but there's no coming back from this.
The Jazz aren't out of the woods just yet, but they can see the finish line. Their defense has been rock steady throughout the game, and they just need a few good minutes from Derrick Favors to protect the basket with the bench unit.
As an aside: Watching Kyle Korver run non-stop is exhausting. He has supernatural stamina for a 37-year-old. It must have come from all those long summer days lugging boulders under shark-infested waters.
The Blazers solidified their defense, but now they have issues scoring. Rudy Gobert has already collected seven blocks, and there's just nothing for the Blazers on the interior. Their best bet is attack while Gobert is on the bench, but that would mean staggering McCollum and Lillard's minutes, and the Blazers have largely resisted that move this season.
Mitchell and Rubio each sink pull-up threes and the Jazz are firmly in the driver's seat at halftime. The Blazers need to regroup and rethink their defense, as the Jazz are getting whatever they want off the high screen. Jusuf Nurkic has been invisible in the middle, the guards are allowing too much penetration, and the deficit could be even bigger if the Jazz shot better than 8-of-18 from the free throw line.
Mitchell records another highlight by dropping C.J. McCollum to the seat of his pants with a slick crossover before sinking the free-throw line jumper. Mitchell is leading the way for the Jazz, while Damian Lillard is doing his best to keep pace with an assortment of pull-up threes and slick dimes.
Utah takes its largest lead of the game by pushing the pace at every opportunity. Jae Crowder just splashed a transition triple, and Ricky Rubio has been aggressive getting to the cup. Portland's goal should be to limit the damage and to remain within striking distance at halftime.
Lou: Wolfond has officially tapped out after 11 straight hours of live blogging, so it's up to me to see out the last game on Christmas. Bless the Blazers and Jazz for doing their best, but there's not a lot of interest in this last game.
Donovan Mitchell had the highlight of the night thus far with this incredible alley-oop finish. The highlight of my night is this third glass of Merlot.
Lou: Pride should kick in, but that only happens if the Warriors are still on the same page. They just look scattered at the moment. Klay's off in his own world, Durant is still undecided about his future, Green has dropped off noticeably on both ends, nobody listens to Kerr anymore, and the supporting cast keeps getting worse. Curry's doing his best to lighten the mood but he was a non-factor today due to foul trouble.
They're waiting for someone to motivate them. Maybe that spark comes from DeMarcus Cousins, but perhaps the front office makes a proactive move and facilitates a trade. The Warriors are officially stale, and they're no longer playing with that infectious joy that made them irresistible.
Wolfond: Just a shocking result. Like, this would've been a shocking result even if LeBron hadn't gotten injured. All credit to the Lakers coaching staff and to all the team's role players for stepping up, from Zubac to Rondo to Lance to KCP to Hart to Kuzma.
Three stars for the Lakers: Zubac, Rondo, James
Three stars for the Warriors: Durant, Iguodala, Looney
I can't really decide if this says more about the Lakers or the Warriors, to be honest. I get that the Warriors are playing for something bigger and saving themselves for the spring, I get that we've seen them sleepwalk through the regular season before cranking it up in the playoffs before. But you'd think pride would kick in at some point, no?
So, tell me, Will: Should we be having a conversation about how good this team actually is? They've now been 20-pieced at home by two teams missing their best players, despite being fully healthy (give or take a Boogie) in both games. Their defense looks legitimately flawed for the first time I can remember. Does it feel any different to you this time? Does any of this matter?
Lou: You have to give Walton a lot of credit for how he organized his defense. The Lakers ignored everyone not named Curry, Klay, and Durant, which is feasible when the Warriors are almost always surrounding their stars with least two non-shooters. It's the same strategy that the Raptors used to beat the Warriors two weeks ago without Kawhi Leonard.
There's also an interesting contrast in how the construction of these two teams. The Warriors are entirely top-heavy and they have no useful depth, whereas the Lakers only have one star but can reach deep into their bench for contributions. Seven players finished in double-digits, and the Lakers' leading scorer at the moment is Zubac with 18 points.
Wolfond: That shift from Rondo was monstrous. He played smart D, really steadied their offense, came through with some tough finishes in the lane, and hit a wide-open three. When he and Stephenson combine for more made triples than Steph and Klay, you know something has gone horribly wrong for Golden State.
Caldwell-Pope has done a really nice job shadowing Curry (as he always seems to), and that's really taking the Warriors out of their offense. Also, we've bagged on the Lakers' big-man rotation all season, but Ivica Zubac is having himself a hell of a game.
Lou: Let's pump the brakes just a bit. The Warriors still look out of sorts, and the Lakers have regrouped behind a few driving layups and a triple by Rajon Rondo. It's still a double-digit deficit.
The Lakers need to be smart with the lead - continue to attack the basket, get to the line, and keep the Warriors out of transition. They'll be fine so long as they manage the clock. Keep doubling Durant, scramble to close out against Curry, and let Iguodala and Green hit jumpers to mount the comeback.
Wolfond: It took the Warriors less than three minutes to slash that 16-point deficit down to three. The Lakers might need a miracle to pull this out, so, sure, why not Lance? The rest of the young Lakers look pretty shook right now, and anytime Stephenson hits a shot it seems to completely demoralize the opposing team. He just hit a crazy triple at the end of the third quarter to restore the lead to nine! He's 3-of-3 from deep in the game.
Worth mentioning that the Lakers defense has remained pretty solid. With Curry on the bench in the final few minutes of the third, they're sending hard double teams at Durant, turning him into a playmaker, and begging any other Warrior to try score. Durant has responded well, with seven assists, but the Lakers will take that when he's only using 12 shooting possessions through three.
Meanwhile, LeBron has been diagnosed with a groin strain and is officially questionable to return. Predictions for the fourth quarter? How much do the Dubs win by?
Lou: Here come the Curry threes. First, he pulls up off the high screen after Tyson Chandler drops into the paint. Next trip down, Curry dumps it down to Looney in the post, before relocating to the corner for another wild triple. It feels like every Warriors comeback starts with him.
Let's see what the rest of the Lakers are made of. Do they fold immediately or do they hold their ground? LeBron is almost certainly out for the night. Odds are that they collapse. Iguodala is still red-hot, and Durant seems determined to get this win.
Who should Luke Walton turn to settle down the Lakers? Seems like they could use a quick dose of irrational confidence from Lance Stephenson.
Wolfond: Hey, so, about that Draymond offensive drop-off... the Lakers are daring him to beat them from outside and he is resolutely unwilling to try. He just passed up a straightaway 3-pointer in which he had probably 15 feet of space and chose instead to drive into traffic in hopes of finding a passing angle. You might be right that a slower pace favors the Warriors, but Draymond has only really been effective in transition in this game (and all season).
Of course, the only thing that really matters right now is LeBron's groin. He seemed to tweak it while lunging for a loose ball, and on the replay could be seen mouthing the words "I felt a pop." He's gone back to the locker room and will probably miss the rest of the game, if not longer.
Do the Lakers have any hope of hanging onto this lead without him?
Lou: Put the ball in Curry's hands and let him run pick-and-roll? That's the last thing Kerr wants to do. More triangle sets on deck.
But seriously, it looks as Durant wants to take charge. He just drilled a pull-up three in transition, and came up with a nice assist to Looney for the dunk. I don't mind this strategy because chances are that the pace will slow to a half-court game, and that favors the Warriors more than it does the Lakers.
Wolfond: I feel like the adjustments for the Warriors are always pretty simple. Putting the ball in Steph's hands and using Draymond as a ball screener is a tried-and-true formula. Curry can be really effective off-ball, but using him that way makes it a bit easier for defenses to take him out of the game.
The Warriors can bank on some positive 3-point regression in the second half - they'll probably shoot better than the 5-of-22 mark they've posted through two quarters - but they also have to make sure the right guys are taking those shots. And their non-shooters need to make sure they're cutting into open space when the Lakers defenders ignore them.
The biggest thing the Warriors have to change, though, is their defensive focus. They let the Lakers get pretty much whatever they wanted, and got chewed up by LeBron inside. I have a feeling they'll start the second half with more energy.
Lou: I'm much more concerned about Green's drop-off, because defenses will still cover Klay like he's going for 37 in a quarter regardless of his percentages. Defenses are just straight-up ignoring Green, who continues to shoot like he's wearing a backpack, and he's overpassing to compensate which is leading to silly turnovers.
What adjustments are you making if you're Steve Kerr during halftime? How do you get Curry and Durant some more open looks? They only have 15 combined attempts through 24 minutes.
Wolfond: Any time the Warriors have a non-threat on the floor, the Lakers are aggressively helping off that guy. Alfonzo McKinnie has taken nine shots, three more than anyone else on Golden State!
The Warriors have their death lineup on the floor right now, so this thing could be about to turn in a serious way. Would like to see Curry spend a bit more time on-ball. Also, to your earlier comment about Klay, how concerned are you about Draymond's complete offensive drop-off?
Lou: Agreed, this has been a good night from the Lakers. They're more than capable of being solid defensively (they were third on defense for a solid month after acquiring Tyson Chandler) but they're inconsistent and sloppy. Tonight they look strong, in large part because LeBron is engaged.
It sounds like a fun crowd at Oracle Arena. It seems to be an an even split between bandwagon Lakers fans and bandwagon Warriors fans. There's probably a lot of this going on in the stands depending on who's on top.
Wolfond: I feel like if Klay hadn't had that one game where he hit 14 threes (or if the Warriors weren't so stupidly stacked), this would be more of a thing. He's clearly struggling with his jumper, and his shot selection, at least in terms of the spots he's choosing to shoot from, is a bit baffling.
The Lakers are doing a great job keying in on Steph at the defensive end and forcing the Warriors to run their offense through less dangerous options. They'd be ahead by a lot more if Andre Iguodala hadn't responded by hitting all five of his shots for 11 points in 10 minutes. But the fact that Jonas Jerebko and Kevon Looney have more field-goal attempts than Durant and Curry is a good sign.
Lou: Stephen Curry and Draymond Green are battling early foul trouble so that's factoring into the deficit early on, but the Lakers are playing well. They thrive playing up-tempo, and they're capitalizing off open looks.
As an aside, how worried are you about Klay Thompson? He's quietly had a not-so-stellar season where he's chucking contested mid-range shots as if Mark Jackson was still the head coach.
Joe Wolfond: LeBron is loving the frenetic pace of this game so far, and playing the distributor role brilliantly when he isn't romping all the way to the rim and getting himself to the free-throw line. The Lakers' role players are knocking down their threes off James' kickouts, which has to continue if they're to hang around in this one.
William Lou: The most anticipated game of the night is about to be underway. LeBron James faces off against the Golden State Warriors for the first time as a member of the Lakers in what could be a conference finals matchup.
... Or not. The Lakers are starting Ivica Zubac on Christmas, so advancing through the first two rounds of the playoffs is no guarantee.