Month two of the NBA season is in the books and #NBAChristmas has been and gone. Despite a stretch of 5-5, the Raptors currently sit atop the Eastern Conference, while the Denver Nuggets cling to the top of the West.
James Harden has had some dominant scoring outbursts and is averaging 31 points per game, Andre Drummond is still dominating the rebound category with 15 per game while Russell Westbrook and Kyle Lowry are averaging a double-double.
This was about to be the Dallas Mavericks, who had an 8-2 run record over a 10-game stretch, but then they lost two in a row against the Sacramento Kings and the Phoenix Suns. Their impressive run, however, did including wins over the Rockets, Celtics, Clippers and Trail Blazers.
But that moves the Denver Nuggets into the Hero team slot. The Mile High team might have something to say about the potential NBA Finals match-up between the Toronto Raptors and the Golden State Warriors: the Raptors dominated the Warriors without Kawhi Leonard, only to be smacked by Denver when Leonard was back and scored 29 points. The Nuggets grabbed the win by holding the Raptors to just 86 points, while limiting their three-point shooting to just 20% to move to 2-0 against the potential Eastern Conference champions this season.
The struggle is real in Phoenix. Not only is the team performing terribly but owner Robert Sarver threatened to move the team if the city doesn’t put money towards arena improvements. This calendar year, the Suns have won 13 games, and the wins they have this season aren’t exactly the cream of the Western Conference crop. The only thing the Suns have to look forward too is a high draft pick come June, it’s going ot be a long season.
Before their loss to the Detroit Pistons, the Boston Celtics were on an eight-game win streak thanks to Kyrie Irving. The dominant guard has spent December being fairly unstoppable, averaging 24 points, more than 4 rebounds and 6 assists, including shooting around 48% from the field and grabbing 1.7 steals per outing. In the Celtics’ overtime victory against the Washington Wizards, he put the team on his back and scored the C’s final 12 points, finishing with 38 points. Boston started the season poorly, but as it climbs up through the East, look for Kyrie to continue pushing the team.
De’Aaron Fox has been one of this seasons biggest risers so far this season. We knew that at the very beginning of November when he posted a crazy 31-point, 10-rebound, 15-assist performance, which received our best individual performance in last month’s wrap-up.
He averaged 17 points, 4 rebounds and 8 assists while the Kings had a fairly respectable record. Now, it’s December, and he’s averaging 21 points, nearly 3 rebounds and 7 assists, while shooting 51% on field goals, 42% from beyond the arc and 84% from the line. Sacramento also went 6-2 in the month. October and November were just the start, De’Aaron Fox has arrived.
Rookie of the month
This section would get very boring if I just gave Rookie of the Month to Luka Dončić over and over again, so for the sake of variety, and some ridiculous scoring out bursts (which make up for any negatives) this month’s Double Clutch Rookie goes to Jaren Jackson Jr.
He has helped the Memphis Grizzlies to a surprising record so far this season. The highlight of the past month for Jackson must be the career-high 36 points he dropped on the Brooklyn Nets, including two crunch time buckets that sent the game to overtime, and another Grizzlies win. Other impressive stats include his 7 blocks against the New York Knicks while also going 4/4 from deep and his 27-point, 2 blocks and 4 steals in a win over the Kings.
Fifty Point Triple Double.
For the fourth time in his career, James Harden had his fourth 50-point triple-double game, setting a new NBA record when he scorched the LA Lakers to the tune of 50 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists on 13 December. The Rockets may need more of these performances if they hope to recover from their slow start to the season, especially with Chris Paul out for a little while.
*Records accurate as of 23 December 2018