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Curry powers Warriors past Suns, Bucks deal Celtics holiday heartbreak

26 December 2021   |   5:35 am
Stephen Curry scored 33 points to power Golden State to a 116-107 victory over Phoenix on Saturday that moved the Warriors ahead

Stephen Curry scored 33 points to power Golden State to a 116-107 victory over Phoenix on Saturday that moved the Warriors ahead of the Suns for best record in the NBA.

Golden State star Stephen Curry rises for a layup in the Warriors’ 117-113 NBA victory over the Phoenix Suns Christian Petersen. GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP

Otto Porter Jr. scored 13 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter as the Warriors pulled away to win a back-and-forth battle that featured 12 lead changes.

The Warriors arrived in Phoenix for the Christmas Day clash with three of their top four scorers — Andrew Wiggins, Damion Lee and Jordan Poole — sidelined by Covid concerns.

Curry mostly filled the void, and for the first time in nine Christmas games scored more than 20 points — despite connecting on just 10 of 27 shots from the field, including five of 16 from three-point range.

“Next man up mentality, that’s the only way we’re going to win a game like this,” Curry said, praising Porter’s poise down the stretch.

“I’m proud of everybody, man, because not a lot of people picked us to win tonight,” added Curry after the Warriors ended the Suns’ 15-game home winning streak.

Chris Paul scored 21 points and handed out eight assists for Phoenix. 

The surge of Covid cases around the league robbed the five-game Christmas Day slate of some star power, but there was still plenty of drama.

In Milwaukee, Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 36 points in his return from Covid protocols, powering the NBA champion Bucks to a 117-113 comeback win over the coronavirus-depleted Boston Celtics.

Antetokounmpo, who had missed five games, scored 29 points in the second half as the Bucks rallied to deny a gutsy Celtics squad that had nine players unavailable because of Covid-19 concerns, and 10 unavailable counting Al Horford, who cleared protocols but was deemed not yet game fit.

With the minimum required eight players in uniform — after German guard Dennis Schroder was ruled out by Covid concerns earlier Saturday — the Celtics took it to the NBA champions early.

Behind 14 first-quarter points from Jaylen Brown, they raced to a 35-22 first-quarter lead.

Brown, Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart combined for 69 points for the Celtics, who led by as many as 19 and were up by 13 with 5:28 remaining.

Antetokounmpo’s layup knotted the score at 111-111 with 1:29 to play.

Brown made two free throws to put Boston back on top, but Bucks reserve Wesley Matthews drained a three-pointer with 30.3 seconds remaining to put Milwaukee up by one — their first lead of the contest.

Boston wouldn’t get the lead again as Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton made three free throws and Brown missed a three-pointer in the final second.

– A Knicks first -The holiday action opened at Madison Square Garden, where Kemba Walker’s resurgence continued as he became the first New York Knicks player to post a triple-double on the holiday to lead the way in a 101-87 victory over the Atlanta Hawks.

Walker, benched for nine games by coach Tom Thibodeau this month, has poured it on in his return to the lineup.

On Thursday, he had 44 in a loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, but on Saturday, his 10 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists made an impact in the opening game of the NBA’s five-game Christmas Day slate.

“This is up there,” said Walker, who received a standing ovation when he pulled down his 10th rebound in the second half to achieve his first triple-double since 2014. 

“This is only my second time playing on Christmas Day. But definitely a very special Christmas, definitely a very special moment to be playing at home in New York, crowd going wild, it was fun.”

Julius Randle scored 25 points and pulled down 12 rebounds for the Knicks, who led by as many as 21 points in the wire-to-wire victory.

Walker became the seventh NBA player to record a triple-double on Christmas.

“I just wanted to come out here and get a win,” Walker said.

John Collins and Delon Wright scored 20 points apiece for the Hawks, who had eight players sidelined over Covid-19 concerns.

Later Saturday, the Los Angeles Lakers hosted a Brooklyn Nets team whose seven Covid absentees included Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge. And in the nightcap, the Utah Jazz hosted the Dallas Mavericks.

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