Jaime Jaquez Jr. enjoyed a "special" Christmas Day as he stepped up in Jimmy Butler's absence, scoring a career-high 31 points for the Miami Heat as they overcame the Philadelphia 76ers.
Butler was ruled out for a third straight game with a calf injury, but Miami maintained their 100 per cent record in those contests with a 119-113 victory at Kaseya Center.
The Sixers – who were themselves without Joel Embiid due to a sprained ankle – erased a 21-point Miami lead in the third quarter, but Jaquez scored 10 of his points in the fourth to put the visitors away.
That made the 22-year-old the first rookie to manage at least 25 points and 10 rebounds on December 25 since Patrick Ewing for the New York Knicks in 1985, and he was delighted to see his hard work pay off on the big stage.
"It's definitely special," Jaquez said. "Great to get a win, a career night, on Christmas... I grew up watching these games.
"To be able to play and have a career night, I just go back to all the hard work, late nights in the gym, just preparing for moments like this."
The rookie ain't afraid of the bright lights...— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) December 26, 2023
Put on a show for the whole world to see pic.twitter.com/AM9BLJFlDQ
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who is now 9-0 on Christmas, said of Jaquez's performance: "I don't think I called one play for him tonight, literally.
"I mean, they were in his zone most of the second half. But throughout the rest of the course of the game, I definitely did not call one play for him.
"He did it with offensive rebounding, transitions, cuts, timely threes, just a lot of plays in between, so you don't really think that it's a 30-point game."
Tyrese Maxey endured a difficult outing for the Sixers, shooting 4-for-20 and finishing with just 12 points, well down on his season average of 25.9.
The star guard lamented his poor shooting as he said of the Miami defense: "They did the normal stuff that I see when I'm out there without Joel.
"The blitzing, the hard showing, but for the most part, I got some really good looks and some shots that I make I don't know, four or five times out of 10. So I guess it was just one of those days."