Right after Christmas presents have been opened and breakfast has been eaten, it’s time to turn on basketball. Basketball is the gift that keeps on giving all day long. There will be five games in total played on Christmas Day, and they are not your ordinary match ups. Rivalries will be renewed, new rivalries will form and a city is up for grabs. In addition, the most anticipated game of the year will be played on Christmas as well.
Boston Celtics vs. New York Knicks – 12:00 P.M. @ Madison Square Garden
The Boston/New York rivalry has been on hold for the past couple of seasons. With both teams hitting a bit of a lull in terms of playoff success, fans have been waiting for this game to mean something again. This Christmas they will get their wish. The teams are separated by just a game in the standings, and both are on pace for a playoff berth.
For the visiting Boston Celtics, this return to form has been years in the making. After losing their championship pillars five years ago, the Celtics remained patient. General Manager Danny Ainge was able to draft well as well as make a few significant trades and free agent signings. Coach Brad Stevens is an extremely calm and patient head coach while point guard Isaiah Thomas and center Al Horford are the new ballers in Boston. Just ask the Memphis Grizzlies about Thomas.
Last season, the Celtics returned to the playoffs only to lose in the first round. However, this season their sights are set much higher and they are pegged as one of the few teams that can compete with the Cavs in the Eastern Conference.
On the other hand, the New York Knicks turnaround was much swifter. After only 32 wins last season, New York is on pace to win 43 this season. With the emergence of second year player Kristaps Porzingis, and the free agent signings of Derrick Rose, Joakin Noah, Brandon Jennings and Courtney Lee, the Knicks are finally a complete team. Those additions coupled with the leadership of Carmelo Anthony has the Knicks ready to compete again in the Eastern Conference.
The Celtics consistency versus the Knicks ability to get hot will be the key in this game.
Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Golden State Warriors – 2:30 P.M. @ Quicken Loans Arena
There is no doubt NBA fans will have their eyes glued to the TV on Christmas Day, but this game in particular will garner the most attention. The past two NBA Finals have featured these teams and each have taken home the crown once. The Warriors won it all two years ago with an onslaught of perimeter shooting and depth. The will of LeBron James and the clutch factor of Kyrie Irving were just enough to win a seven game series last season.
This season the two teams are on a collision course again for a third straight Finals appearance. Golden State will be the favorite if the two teams square off again. With the addition of Kevin Durant, there is no doubt the Warriors have one of the best teams ever assembled. After a record breaking 73-win regular season the Warriors are off to a 25-4 start. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson are continuing their Splash Bros. tradition as the Warriors plan to jump shoot their way to another win over the Cavs on Christmas Day.
LeBron James has other plans for how his Christmas will unfold. The defending champs are an impressive 13-2 on their home floor this year, and will have an extra jolt of motivation when their biggest competition comes to town. A recent injury to J.R. Smith could be a minor setback, but that means Iman Shumpert will have to step in and produce.
Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love are enjoying the best seasons of their careers as LeBron James seems to be orchestrating it all. The Love-to-James full-court connections are becoming a phenomenon, and the only touchdowns being thrown in Cleveland these days.
This game will have an intense feel to it much unlike the good nature of the holiday it is played on.
San Antonio Spurs vs. Chicago Bulls – 5:00 P.M. @ AT&T Center
Familiar faces in different places will be the theme for this Christmas Day match up. Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo and Pau Gasol are all familiar with the playing basketball on Christmas. However, this will be the first time they are playing the game in these particular uniforms.
Once a prolific member of the Los Angeles Lakers and a productive Chicago Bull, Pau Gasol signed a contract in the off-season to join the Spurs. He has joined forces with Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge and Tony Parker. The initial results have been extremely beneficial. The Spurs have jumped out to a 23-5 record, including an impressive win against the Warriors to kick off the season. Gasol will bring his A-game when he squares off against some of his old teammates.
For Dwyane Wade, this Christmas will be the most special of his playing career. Usually playing for the Miami Heat, Wade signed an off-season deal to return home to Chicago. Former Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo also joined forces with Wade and budding superstar Jimmy Butler.
The Bulls’ success has been mild so far this season. A 14-13 record has them positioned in the middle of the pack in the Eastern Conference. It is also worth noting that these three players have an immense amount of playoff experience between the three of them. The new edition of the Bulls will look to prove they can with the best in the West on Christmas Day.
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Minnesota Timberwolves – 8:00 P.M. @ Chesapeake Energy Arena
After a satisfying dinner, the couch will be calling your name. Luckily, there are two enticing games left on the Christmas schedule.
The Oklahoma City Westbrooks are one of the most fascinating teams to watch in the NBA. Russell Westbrook has accumulated 13 triple-doubles and is currently averaging a triple-double on the season. To put it in perspective, that is a feat that has not been accomplished since 1962. He has had a bit more help as the season progressed. Rising star Steven Adams and wing man Victor Oladipo have come to Westbrook’s aid on occasion. For the most part, the 16-12 record that the Thunder have this season is all thanks to the “Russdiculous” play of Westbrook.
Their opponents in this game are some of the most talented, young players in the association. However, defensive guru and Head Coach Tom Thibodeau has rarely gotten a complete game from his young studs. The core of Andrew Wiggins, Karl Anthony Towns and Zach LaVine can fill up the score sheet with the best of them. Their high-flying, up-tempo style of play is addicting to watch. Towns is also a 7-footer with the skills of a shooting guard, an incredible combo for a man of his stature.
At times, the T-Wolves have gotten lost in their own hype this season. They are under performing thus far, but a solid opponent in the prime-time spot on Christmas will likely bring out the best in them.
This game will be comparable to a NASCAR race with both teams zipping up and down the floor. Expect it to be close late, with the veterans on the Thunder looking to make plays against the inexperienced Timberwolves.
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Los Angeles Clippers – 10:30 P.M. @ Staples Center
Get your Christmas cookies and Egg Nog ready for the night cap. Making it through the hectic holiday of Christmas is a feat that deserves a solid basketball game to end the night. The battle for LA has tipped in the Clippers favor in recent years.
The Lakers also have a young nucleus of extreme talent. D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle have progressed during their short tenure in the NBA. The Lakers were a laughing stock last season, but find themselves in an intense battle for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Expect the unexpected when Larry Nance, Jr. enters the lane. This power forward has bounce and would make a solid addition to the Slam Dunk contest.
Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Deandre Jordan have bigger aspirations than just qualifying for the playoffs. After an impressive start to the season, the Clippers have cooled off considerably. They have been expected to at least make an appearance in the Western Conference Finals by now with this core of All-Stars. Injuries and lack of focus has haunted them in the past couple of seasons.
A statement must be made that they still have firm control of the city. Also, a convincing win will push them closer to the upper echelon of teams in the NBA. The short list includes the Cavs, Spurs and Warriors. The Clippers have more than enough talent to be in that conversation, but need to display it on a more consistent basis.
The Lakers will look to swarm the Clippers on defense, and get out on the fast break. The Clippers will be prepared as they lock in on the defensive end. Executing on offense and being able to slow down the Lakers tempo will be crucial in the final game of the day.