In the absence of Stephen Curry (who was sidelined with an ankle injury), Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson gave the Golden State Warriors what they needed on Christmas Day. 

Durant finished with 25 points, seven rebounds, three assists, five blocks and two steals in a 99-92 win against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Thompson scored Golden State's last seven points of the game, finishing with 24 points and seven rebounds. The Warriors have won 12 of their last 13 games. 

Kevin Love had game highs of 31`points and 18 rebounds for the Cavaliers, who shot just 31.8 percent in the loss. LeBron James finished with 20 points, six assists, six rebounds and seven turnovers -- including a controversial out-of-bounds call on a big possession.

Here are eight key takeaways from the battle of the NBA's best:

1. Durant the defender

If casual fans do not start paying attention until Christmas, then they all received a quick education on the all-around excellence of Durant. Last year's Finals MVP has been better than ever on defense this season, and he was appropriately stellar on both ends in the NBA's marquee matchup. 

This was his 11th game of the season with at least three blocks, and that doesn't even begin to describe what his versatility means to the Warriors' defense. If it is "unfair" to everybody else that this superteam employs Durant and Curry on offense, then the combination of Durant and Draymond Green on the other end is just as cruel. Any discussion about Defensive Player of the Year must include him.

2. Christmas controversy

Durant was fantastic, but two of his stops against LeBron James came on questionable non-calls in crunch time. The first occurred with a bit more than a minute left, with James trying to take Durant one-on-one on the baseline and losing the ball out of bounds:

The second occurred when James attacked the basket with less than 30 seconds to play:

My verdict: The first could have been a foul, but it was not an egregious missed call. The second, however, was a clear error. Your mileage may vary.

3. Pretty compelling, but not pretty

These are two of the best offensive teams in the NBA, but you wouldn't have known it. Golden State's turnover problems plagued them in the first half, and Cleveland shot 25 percent inside the 3-point line. Some of this sloppiness probably had to do with the early start — tipoff was at noon local time — but some of it seemed to stem from the intensity of the rivalry. 

Durant picked up an early technical and was lucky not to be given another before the end of the first quarter. Warriors not named Durant or Thompson shot a combined 3-for-21 from 3-point range. Still, it was close and dramatic at the end, which is just about all the league can ask for. 

4. Love fest

Love's monster numbers were encouraging when you consider his up-and-down history against Golden State, and he was one reason why Cleveland came close to stealing this game. It is, however, fair to wonder whether or not the Warriors are going to lose any sleep over this. Love shot 9-for-25, and the Cavaliers' offense as a whole did not click. 

While he deserves praise for being aggressive, it is incumbent on Tyronn Lue and his staff to figure out a way to get more production up and down the roster. Which leads us to…

5. Cavs lose the bench battle

Before the game, Warriors coach Steve Kerr said the Cavs' second unit is "much better" than it was in previous seasons, per The Athletic's Anthony Slater. Unfortunately for Cleveland, that was not evident after tipoff. The Cavaliers' reserves shot a combined 6-for-26, and the Warriors' bench units were much more cohesive. Kyle Korver struggled to get free, Jeff Green had perhaps his worst performance of the season, Cedi Osman was invisible, Tristan Thompson was ineffective and Channing Frye didn't even get in the game. That's not going to cut it. 

6. LeBron and Draymond, doing everything

Statistically, this was not a standout performance by James. If you expected a duel between him and Durant, then you have to be disappointed. It would be crazy, though, to dismiss the way he passed the ball and created advantages against an excellent defense over and over again. Some might criticize him for not taking over the game, but I'd rather praise him for continuing to trust his teammates throughout.

Green did what he always does. With 12 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists, he recorded his 20th career triple-double, tying Hall of Famer and Philadelphia legend Tom Gola for the most in franchise history.

7. Bell does well

Zaza Pachulia was available to play, but Kerr chose to start Jordan Bell at center instead because of the matchup. Do not be surprised if he goes the same way in a potential Finals rematch, given how well the rookie fared. The huge alley-oop dunk from Green with less than four minutes to go stood out, but the most impressive part was simply that Bell looked like he belonged. 

His athleticism and ability to guard multiple positions is what has made him fit in seamlessly with the Warriors, and Cleveland can't exploit him in pick-and-rolls the way it usually tries to do with JaVale McGee

8. But what did we really learn?

Not much. As competitive as this was, it cannot be seen as a proper NBA Finals preview. Neither team was particularly in rhythm, and it's hard to take much away from a game that featured two All-NBA point guards sidelined. Curry obviously changes everything for the Warriors, and we still haven't seen what the Cavaliers will be capable of with Isaiah Thomas in the lineup. 

Every time the camera caught Thomas on the sideline, he looked like he wanted to jump on the court. He is close to coming back now, and you should circle Jan. 15 on your calendar if you haven't already. That's when these teams will meet again, potentially at full strength.