Three takeaways from Lakers' surprising Christmas Day win over Warriors

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The Lakers beating the Warriors without LeBron James? That just might qualify as a Christmas miracle.

James left Tuesday night's game early in the third quarter with a strained left groin and didn't return for the final 20 minutes of action. When James walked toward the locker room, the Lakers held a 71-57 lead, but the Warriors cut the deficit down to two points with just under three minutes to go in the third quarter.

MORE: Latest details on LeBron's injury

Despite the increased pressure, Los Angeles didn't fall apart. If anything, the Lakers turned up the intensity, outscoring the Warriors 36-19 in the fourth quarter on the way to a 127-101 blowout win.

So this means the Lakers are heading to the Finals, right? Well, no — we can't go too crazy over this. However, given that it was a national TV game and the first matchup of the season between these two teams, there are a few takeaways from LA's victory.

Lakers rockin' around without LeBron

The key postgame quote came from Lakers guard Josh Hart.

"The narrative is that it's LeBron and the Lakers. Obviously we hope he's okay, but we've got a lot of good players," Hart said. "If he's down, we're ready to step up. None of us are scared of the spotlight."

If James is out for an extended stretch, that's obviously a huge loss for the Lakers. But avoiding a sudden collapse against the defending champs must give the supporting cast a confidence boost.

MORE: Highlights from Lakers' win over Warriors

Kyle Kuzma scored a team-high 19 points, and starting forward Brandon Ingram chipped in 14 points of his own. Rajon Rondo filled the playmaker void with James out, totaling 15 points, 10 assists and five rebounds in 23 minutes.

The biggest surprise was Ivica Zubac, who posted an efficient double-double (18 points on 9-of-10 shooting, 11 rebounds) and finished a game-high plus-25. He has been terrific in three recent starts, averaging 17.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game on 78.1 percent shooting from the field.

Los Angeles isn't a true title contender just yet, and Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson shouldn't suddenly expect them to finish as the top seed in the Western Conference. This is a solid road win, though, and one that could mark a turning point in the season.

Stephen Curry's not-so-merry Christmas

If you want to stop the two-time MVP, there's a very simple game plan. Just play against Curry on Christmas Day.

In Golden State's loss, Curry scored only 15 points (5-of-17 from the field, 2-of-8 from 3-point range) and had the same number of assists as personal fouls (five). Curry has never scored 20 points on Christmas in his career, per ESPN Stats and Info, continuing a bizarre holiday trend.

Christmas Day Points FG-FGA 3PT FG-3PT FGA Win or Loss?
2010 4 2-15 0-5 Win
2011 4 2-12 0-4 Loss
2013 15 5-17 2-6 Win
2014 14 5-12 1-5 Loss
2015 19 6-15 1-4 Win
2016 15 4-11 2-7 Loss
2018 15 5-17 2-8 Loss
Averages 12.3 29.2% 20.5% 3-4

MORE: Curry admits Warriors "laid an egg" vs. Lakers

This doesn't take away from Curry's greatness in any way, but it remains... weird. 

"We were looking forward to this opportunity to get out there and play a lot better and just laid an egg, so you can feel terrible about it leaving the arena," Curry said. "You got to understand it's December — we're in a decent spot.

"We got to get better, though. We're not going to win a championship playing like we did tonight."

Draymond Green is cold outside

This is an emerging issue that goes beyond one game. Green's poor shooting could become a problem down the road for Golden State's offense.

Opposing defenses are treating Green like Ben Simmons. The Lakers gave Green an open invitation to shoot as many 3-pointers as he wanted.

If even a league average shooter catches this pass, a defender is running toward the arc.

MORE: Are Knicks going all-in on Kevin Durant?

During the 2015-16 season, Green shot a career-high 49.0 percent from the field and 38.8 percent from deep. Since Kevin Durant joined the team in the summer of 2016, Green has dropped to 43.3 and 29.8 in those categories.

He will never be the team's leading scorer, but Green can't just refuse to look at the basket. The offense keeps stalling each time Green holds the ball and avoids open attempts. Durant is noticing the difference.

The Warriors' offensive rating only improves slightly with Green on the bench, and their defensive rating is significantly better with him on the floor. Green isn't suddenly a negative impact player overall, but he's not playing with his usual confidence.

There's just something that isn't quite right here, and that's at least worth monitoring as the Warriors chase a three-peat.

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