Two teams that have already clinched playoff spots put themselves in even better positions on Christmas Day, beginning with the Pittsburgh Steelers, who clinched a first-round bye with a 34-6 rout of the Houston Texans. Ben Roethlisberger threw for 226 yards and two touchdowns, as the Steelers helped themselves, especially with Antonio Brown being doubtful for a Wild Card round matchup. JuJu Smith-Schuster took over as Big Ben's top target, catching six passes for 75 yards and a score. Le'Veon Bell also got it done on the ground with 69 yards rushing and a score, as the Steelers improved to 7-1 away from home. The Texans' tough season continued, falling to 4-11 on the year, despite DeAndre Hopkins' four catches for 65 yards and a touchdown, which included an Odell Beckham Jr.-style one-handed catch. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Eagles sealed the top seed in the NFC with a 19-10 win over the Oakland Raiders on Monday Night Football. Jake Elliott kicked the game-winning 48-yard field goal with 22 seconds left, as Derek Barnett returned a fumble 23 yards for a touchdown to seal the win at home. Nick Foles threw for 163 yards with a touchdown and an interception, getting more opportunities with the Raiders' five turnovers. That included two interceptions from Derek Carr, who had just 140 yards through the air and a touchdown pass. The game-winning field goal was set up by Ronald Darby's interception, which was returned 52 yards with 54 seconds left. Foles completed four straight passes to set up the go-ahead field goal from Elliott. The Eagles improved to 13-2, as they have home field advantage throughout the postseason for the first time since reaching the Super Bowl in 2004, where they fell to the New England Patriots.
Durant, Warriors Top LeBron, Cavs in Christmas Showdown
The Golden State Warriors were without Steph Curry on Christmas Day, while the Cleveland Cavaliers were without Isaiah Thomas for the showdown. It was still a must-watch affair, as Kevin Durant took over with 25 points, seven rebounds, and five blocks, including a big block on LeBron James, which was a questionable no-foul call, giving the Warriors a 99-92 win over the Cavs. Klay Thompson hit a clutch three-pointer with 1:33 left, as the Warriors out-shot the Cavs, despite struggling again from three-point range. They shot 46 percent overall, but just 27 percent from beyond the arc, but that was not enough to shut them down. Kevin Love stepped up with 31 points and 18 rebounds, while James finished with 20 points, six rebounds, and six assists. Golden State was coming off an 11-game win streak-breaking loss to the Denver Nuggets on Saturday, but got the job done without Steph Curry, who missed his eighth straight game with a sprained right ankle. The production came from Thompson, who had 24 points, and Draymond Green who posted a triple-double of 12 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists. The defending champs have won 12 of 13 overall, and will do battle with the Cavs in Cleveland on January 15th. They will play host to the Utah Jazz on Wednesday, while the Cavs move on to stay out west to visit the Sacramento Kings that same night.
Westbrook, Thunder Take Out Harden, Rockets
Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder have caught fire as of late and earned the signature win of this streak on Christmas Day with a 112-107 win over the Houston Rockets. Westbrook put up 31 points and 11 assists in what was the Thunder's fifth straight win. They took advantage of a Chris Paul-less Rockets team, as they were able to shoot 54 percent from the floor, including 44 percent from downtown. They improved to 19-15 after a tough 4-7 start, and have defended their home floor well with 11 wins in 15 games at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Paul George helped Monday's efforts with 24 points, while Carmelo Anthony added 20, helping their team to their 11th win in the past 14 games. James Harden shot 7-of-18 from the floor for 29 points, coming off of consecutive 51-point games, as the Rockets have now dropped three in a row. Trevor Ariza and Eric Gordon had 20 points apiece for the Rockets, who fell to 10-6 without Paul in the lineup. Their recent skid has dropped them a game behind the Golden State Warriors for the top spot in the Western Conference. They will look to get back on track on Thursday when they visit the Boston Celtics, who have also struggled as of late. The Thunder look to keep things going when they play host to a very good Toronto Raptors team on Wednesday.