THE host Los Angeles Clippers extended their franchise-record winning streak to 14 games by beating the Denver Nuggets 112-100 yesterday - and moved to the top of the NBA standings in the process.
Jamal Crawford led a dominant performance by the Los Angeles reserves with 22 points, while Matt Barnes added 20.
The Clippers' bench outscored the team's starters 64-48 in claiming the NBA's best record at 22-6, one win better than Oklahoma City. The Miami Heat defeated the Thunder 103-97 in an NBA Finals rematch earlier yesterday.
In the other games on Christmas, the Boston Celtics defeated the struggling Brooklyn Nets 93-76, the Los Angeles Lakers beat the New York Knicks 100-94 and the Houston Rockets routed the Chicago Bulls 120-97.
The Clippers haven't lost since Nov. 26 when the New Orleans Hornets handed them their fourth straight defeat.
Crawford's 3-pointer to open the fourth quarter pushed the Clippers' lead to 20 points and kept the starters on the bench for the final 12 minutes. Crawford, who leads the NBA's reserves in scoring, topped 20 points for the 12th time this season.
Chris Paul led Los Angeles' starters with 14 points, while Blake Griffin had 13.
Kosta Koufos and Jordan Hamilton each scored 16 points to lead the Nuggets.
The Heat survived a frantic finish to beat the Thunder for the fifth straight time going back to June's title series and improve their season record to 19-6, matching the team's best 25-game start.
LeBron James finished with 29 points, nine assists and eight rebounds, Dwyane Wade scored 21 and Mario Chalmers had a season-high 20 for the defending NBA champions.
Kevin Durant scored 33 points and Russell Westbrook added 21 for Oklahoma City, but both Thunder stars missed potentially game-tying 3-point attempts in the final seconds. Serge Ibaka and Kevin Martin each added 15 for the Thunder, who have dropped two straight for the first time this season.
Oklahoma City got within one when Durant made a jumper over James with less than a minute to play, but Miami hit all five of its free throws in the final moments to seal the victory.
Kobe Bryant engineered a second-half comeback to help the Lakers win their fifth straight game earlier in Los Angeles.
Bryant scored 34 points in his NBA-record 15th Christmas Day game and Metta World Peace added 20 points and seven rebounds while defending Carmelo Anthony, whose 34 points led the Knicks. Bryant, the league's leading scorer, has topped 30 or more points in nine straight games.
The Lakers improved their record to 14-14 - 9-9 under new coach Mike D'Antoni - and upped their holiday record to 21-18, including 13-9 at home.
The Knicks controlled most of the game behind Anthony and J.R. Smith, who had 24 points. But they struggled offensively in the fourth quarter, when Anthony was limited to seven points and Smith had five.
Steve Nash had 16 points, 11 assists and six rebounds in his second game with the Lakers in nearly two months. He missed 24 straight games while recovering from a small fracture in his lower left leg.
Dwight Howard had 14 points and 12 rebounds, and Pau Gasol added 13 points and eight rebounds.
The Celtics easily defeated the Nets in the teams' first meeting since their contentious game a month ago in which three players were ejected for fighting.
Rajon Rondo scored 19 points and rookie Jared Sullinger tied a career high with 16 points. Rondo had been thrown out of the Nets' Nov. 28 victory in Boston after shoving Brooklyn's Kris Humphries into the courtside seats.
Gerald Wallace and Brook Lopez each scored 15 for the Nets, who have lost four of five.
There was a brief skirmish in the fourth quarter that resulted in four technical fouls, but that was the most fight the Nets put up in a disappointing performance on the national stage of the Christmas opener.