Duke Basketball: Brotherhood goes for 80 in one Christmas Day clash

(Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images)
(Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images) /

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.

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Stay tuned to Ball Durham all season long for more updates of highlight performances by former Blue Devils in the NBA.