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The Christmas List: Rakeem starts to show shooting range against Westchester Knicks

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Here's another list about No. 25's progress with the Mad Ants. Feel free to check it twice.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

After committing five turnovers and shooting 37 percent from the field against the Erie BayHawks on Sunday, Rakeem Christmas bounced back in a big way against the Westchester Knicks. Christmas played arguably his best game of the season Wednesday afternoon, pouring in 25 points while grabbing 13 rebounds and blocking 3 shots.

This week's Christmas List focuses on the area of No. 25's game that, if further developed, could take his play to the next level: His shooting.

8.9: The number of blocks the Westchester Knicks average per game, the best in the D-League. While Christmas did have his shot rejected by Jordan Bachynski at the rim a few times, overall he did a solid job utilizing his footwork and speed to his advantage. His 13 free throw attempts were the most he has attempted in a single game this season. But there's a catch: He is shooting below 65 percent from the free throw line.

Speaking of shooting...

50.0%: Field goal percentage on shots beyond 10-feet from the basket against the Westchester Knicks, Christmas scored six of his 25 points from mid-range on Wednesday (7 points came from the charity stripe). Standing at 6-foot-9, it remains to be seen whether the rookie's post-game will translate to the NBA, which is why it is imperative that he continue to hone his shooting touch while on assignment. Because he knew Indiana's athletic rookie was capable of utilizing his quickness to take him off the dribble, Westchester's Jordan Bachynski, who at 7-foot-2 averages 3.3 blocks per game, left Christmas plenty of room on the perimeter to line up his shot.

On the season, Christmas is shooting 32 percent on shots 8-16 feet from the basket.

86.5: The Mad Ants offensive rating with Rakeem Christmas on the floor in losses. This number surges to 105.3 points per 100 possessions in wins. Indiana's rookie is shooting 51.1 percent from the field in wins as opposed to 36.4 percent in losses. Which indicates that the Mad Ants, quite clearly, go as Christmas goes.

This was especially true during the third quarter of Wednesday's game against Westchester when No. 25 racked up 12 points and five rebounds while showcasing his full repertoire of skills on offense: knocking down jump shots, converting a crafty up-and-under, driving hard out of sets, and drawing fouls. The Mad Ants finished the frame up 12 on the Knicks, 84-72.

11: The number of points Christmas is projected to score per 36 minutes in the NBA based upon his D-League stats and adjusted for an increase in level of competition and a reduction in role, nine fewer points than he averages per 36 minutes with the Mad Ants.

Here are his overall projections, per NBA.com/DLeague/stats:

Overall PTS REB BLK FG%
D-League per 36 stats 20 8 2 46.5%
NBA projected per 36 stats 11 6 1 43.9%

Stocking Stuffers:

  • The Westchester Knicks were the lone undefeated team in the D-League before the Mad Ants, now 5-3, handed them their first loss of the season, 98-87.
  • Shayne Whittington returned to the lineup against the Westchester Knicks after missing the prior three games with a rib injury.
  • On Wednesday, Whittington scored 5 points on 20 percent shooting. Only three of his 10 field goal attempts came from behind the arc, where the second-year Pacer is still struggling to find his touch. His best play of the game came when he drove to the rim, collected his own shot over Thanasis Antetokounmpo and converted the putback. Plays like this need to happen with more regularity for Whittington until he can start knocking down his three-point shot with more consistency.
  • Kadeem Jack, who signed a training camp deal with the Pacers over the summer, is leading the Mad Ants in Net Rating (minimum 10 minutes played per game). Fort Wayne has outscored opponents by 10.2 points per 100 possessions with Jack on the floor.
  • Larry Bird is starting to become a regular at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum. He was in attendance for Sunday's game against the Erie BayHawks. Christmas scored 13 points on 37 percent shooting and committed five turnovers. Whittington did not play.
  • The D-League no longer allows players to play the basketball while it is on the rim. The Journal Gazette's John A. Cohn explains how this rule change has impacted the Mad Ants.