Duke Basketball: Brotherhood goes for 80 in one Christmas Day clash
The Boston Celtics may have won the overtime game against the Philadelphia 76ers, 121-114, as millions of families tuned in, but the true winner — at least in the eyes of Duke basketball fans — was the reputation of #TheBrotherhood.
During one of the most anticipated of the five Christmas Day games, three former Duke basketball players — Philadelphia’s J.J. Redick and Boston’s Kyrie Irving and Jayson Tatum — combined to score 80 points (a little more than a third of the game’s total).
This single-game symbol of Duke’s on-the-rise representation in the NBA came just after the conclusion of a clutch performance by another former Blue Devil, Austin Rivers, during his debut as a Houston Rocket.
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Redick wasn’t so clutch.
The sharpshooter missed an 18-footer at the end of regulation that would have given the 76ers the win on the road; however, he still managed 17 points, though he had a bit of an off night shooting (5-for-16 from the field and 4-for-10 from beyond the arc).
Despite the disappointment stemming from the loss, the 34-year-old has every reason to feel happy with his performance thus far this season, his 13th since leaving Duke in 2006 as the program’s all-time leading scorer (2,769).
The Roanoke, Va., native is averaging a career-high 18.1 points for a Philly squad that now sits fourth in the Eastern Conference with a 22-13 record (next game is at the Utah Jazz on Thursday at 10:30 p.m. EST).
ALSO READ: J.J. Redick becomes 12th Blue Devil to score 10K in NBA
Meanwhile, the 20-13 Celtics (next game is at the Houston Rockets on Thursday at 8 p.m. EST) are officially on the heels of the Sixers in the standings.
And much of the credit for the recent success of Boston — winner of 10 of its last 13 games — rightfully goes to the franchise’s two leading scorers for the season: Irving (23.3 per game) and Tatum (17.0 per game).
Against Philly, Irving, who unfortunately only played 11 games during his one-and-only season at Duke (2010-11), ended with 40 points and 10 rebounds — the first game of his career that he has reached both of those marks.
His 13-foot jumper with 20 seconds left in regulation tied the score and helped force overtime, and his two 3-pointers in overtime were part of a 13-1 Boston run after falling behind by five at the start of the extra minutes.
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Although the point guard’s scoring average is down from the past two seasons — the 26-year-old is playing in his 8th season as a pro — his averages in assists (6.3) and rebounds (5.1) would be career-highs if the season ended today.
Speaking of career-high, Tatum, who starred as a freshman for the Blue Devils during the 2016-17 season before bolting for the NBA, is on his way to besting his clips in points and boards (now 6.5 per game) from his rookie year.
The third double-double of the season for the mere 20-year-old — 23 points and 10 rebounds against Philly — wasn’t official until he snagged a crucial defensive board with 40 seconds to play and the Celtics only leading by four.
The forward from St. Louis, Mo., then drew a foul and calmly knocked down two free throws to ensure his team would give its fans exactly what they wanted to see for Christmas.
A nice win for the Celtics, led by Tatum and Irving. A nice season-in-the-making for Redick.
And a nice testament to Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski’s ever-growing tendency to recruit the best, mold said best into ready professionals the best, and then watch them shine on the biggest stage against the game’s best.
Stay tuned to Ball Durham all season long for more updates of highlight performances by former Blue Devils in the NBA.