NBA Christmas Day Games 2012: Players with Most to Prove in Holiday Spotlight

Rob GoldbergFeatured ColumnistDecember 25, 2012

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 19:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat looks to pass the ball in the second half against Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game Four of the 2012 NBA Finals on June 19, 2012 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

There are few better days on the NBA calendar than Christmas. Five games give fans a chance to see the best teams and best players in the league.

However, the excitement also comes with pressure. Each game is nationally televised, and teams and players need to make a statement against elite competition.

While no one wants to have a dud on the biggest day of the regular season, these players have the most to prove on December 25.


Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder

In a rematch of last year's NBA Finals, Russell Westbrook needs to remember how the championship was decided.

Westbrook had one huge game, but the rest of the series was filled with ill-advised shots and low assist totals. In the final game, the guard only made four of his 20 shots.

This season, Westbrook is averaging 6.5 fewer points per game than Kevin Durant, but he is still taking one more attempt per game. He needs to realize that he is more efficient and helpful to the Thunder's offense when he focuses more on distributing the ball.

The Miami Heat will put a lot of pressure on the ball to force a decision. The key will be for Westbrook to make positive plays and not hurt his team by throwing up bad shots.


Jeremy Lin, Houston Rockets

The Houston Rockets now have the No. 1 scoring offense in the NBA, and a lot of it has to do with the improved play of Jeremy Lin. 

After a mediocre start to the year, the point guard is averaging 18.3 points and 8.3 assists per game in the last three contests and has made 56 percent of his shots over that stretch.

It will not be easy to continue this on Tuesday. The Chicago Bulls have one of the top defenses in the NBA and are 7-0 all time at home on Christmas. 

Still, the game will come down to Lin. James Harden has proven over the course of the year that he is a true star, but the jury is still out on the former New York Knicks player.

Playing on national television is a great chance to prove any doubters wrong.


Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers

Even though Blake Griffin is the leading scorer of the Clippers, it will be his defense on display against the Denver Nuggets.

Led by Kenneth Faried, the Nuggets are the top offensive rebounding team in the NBA—a big reason they average over 100 points per game.

If the Clippers are to continue their 13-game winning streak, they will need to make sure they cover the glass before trying to get out on the break. That comes down to Griffin doing his job throughout the entire defensive possession. 

Many are well aware of the forward's athleticism. However, this game will give him a chance to show everyone watching that he is a complete player.

Of course, a few big dunks would still make the audience happy.