What To Expect From The NBA On Christmas
Few things go together like the NBA and Christmas Day. There’s nothing like sitting by the fire and watching basketball all day after a morning with family and presents. Here’s a look at what to watch for in an exciting slate of Christmas Day games.
12:00 PM Milwaukee Bucks vs New York Knicks
The Bucks and Knicks are going opposite directions this season. Behind Giannis Antetokounmpo and his MVP-level play (he’s averaging 26.7 points and a career-high 12.9 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game) Milwaukee has surged to second place in the Eastern Conference at 21-9 (All stats as of 12/20/18). According to Fox Sports, the Bucks rank 2nd in the league in offensive rating and 4th in defensive rating, the only team in the league to rank top 5 in both categories. Head coach Mike Budenholzer has the team clicking on all levels in his first year in Milwaukee.
The Knicks, on the other hand, are 9-24 and appear to be headed for the lottery once again. Young talents like Kevin Knox and Allonzo Trier have shown flashes in what is another rebuilding year for the franchise as Kristaps Porzingis recovers from a torn ACL. Despite the different directions of the two teams, the Knicks and Bucks have had some close matchups recently, including a 136-134 Knicks win in OT on December 1, one of the better NBA games this season.
Here’s hoping their matchup on Christmas can provide just as much excitement.
3:00 PM Oklahoma City Thunder vs Houston Rockets
What’s better in today’s NBA: a great, efficient offense or an elite, lockdown defense? This matchup should provide some answers as the Thunder and their league-best defense (1st in defensive rating) take on reigning MVP James Harden and the Rockets 5th-ranked offense. Behind Russell Westbrook, Steven Adams, and Paul George, who’s having a career-season, the Thunder are tied for second place in a tight Western Conference at 20-10. The Rockets, on the other hand, have struggled after letting their two best perimeter defenders, Trevor Ariza and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, walk in free agency.
A year after finishing first place in the Western Conference, the Rockets are 16-15 and sit in 8th place in the West. The Rockets face even more adversity now that Chris Paul has suffered a hamstring strain that will keep him out indefinitely and Harden will need to be at his very best for the Rockets to win this game. Every game counts in the Western Conference race and this should be one of the more entertaining games of the day as the last two MVPs and former teammates clash in Houston.
5: 30 PM Philadephia 76ers vs Boston Celtics
Right before Christmas dinner, two of the Eastern Conference’s best will face off for the first time since opening night of the NBA season. A lot has changed for both teams since the Celtic’s 105-87 win back in October. The Celtics had their fair share of struggles before adjusting their lineup and going on an 8-game win streak. With Marcus Smart in the starting lineup and Gordon Hayward and Jaylen Brown coming off the bench, the Celtics have started to find their rhythm and look more like the team that many expected to win the East going into the season. They now sit at 18-12 and 5th place in the East.
Behind Joel Embiid, who’s played at an MVP level, averaging 26.3 points, 13.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.8 blocks, the 76ers sit in 3rd place in the East at 21-12. They’ve made a drastic change since they last played the Celtics: adding another
8:00 PM Los Angeles Lakers vs Golden State Warriors
The night game features a matchup we’ve seen often the past several years but with a bit of a twist. It’s LeBron James vs. the Warriors but this time LeBron’s with the Lakers, instead of the Cavaliers, and has a whole new supporting cast. This will be LeBron’s first time facing off with the two-time defending champs in a Lakers uniform. While the Lakers don’t have the star power of the Warriors (and they’ll be looking to change that this coming summer), they sit just two and a half games back of them in the standings out West. James is in the middle of another stellar season, averaging 28 points, 7 assists, and 7.9 rebounds, and his presence alone makes the Lakers one of the top challengers to Golden State’s reign of Western Conference supremacy.
Los Angeles ranks 10th in defensive rating and if they can manage to slow down Golden State on Christmas night, James would see some early vindication of his move out west. The Warriors have slipped up at times this season, with Steph Curry missing 11 games due to injury but they still sit in 3rd place in the West at 21-11. This looks to be a
10:30 PM Portland Trail Blazers vs Utah Jazz
Those who stay up for the night cap should be in for a treat. Behind their prolific backcourt of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, the Trail Blazers have been one of the league’s most explosive teams and they rank 7th in offensive rating. Their 18-13 record has them in 5th place in a crowded Western Conference. This game presents another strength vs strength matchup as Portland takes on the Utah Jazz and their 8th ranked defense.
The Jazz currently sit 12th in the West at 15-17 but just 3.5 games separate the 4th and 13th seeds in the conference with around 50 games left in the season. There’s plenty of opportunity for most of the teams to make a run and shake up the standings. Donovan Mitchell has struggled at times this season as his shooting percentages are down (41.1% from the field and just 29.6% from 3) but a big performance in a nationally televised Christmas night game could be just what the Jazz need to get their season and playoff hopes back on track.