Previewing the NBA’s Christmas Games

If Thanksgiving is meant for watching football, Christmas is a day for viewing the NBA. Sure, presents will be exchanged, meals will be consumed, and folks will linger around aromatic trees with old friends, but in the back drop of the all Christmas festivities the NBA will once again provide a slate of fantastic games in what has become one of the Association’s best traditions. Not to go all Ghost of Christmas Past on you, but there have been some classic Christmas games the past few years, including the Bulls’ one point win over the Lakers in 2011, the defensive slug-fest between the Magic and Celtics in 2009, and the thriller between the Spurs and Suns in ’08. The matchups are set for another memorable day of Christmas hoops tomorrow. Let’s take a look at the five games.

Chicago Bulls (10-16) @ Brooklyn Nets (9-18) 12:00

To kick things off the Chi-Town Tasting Platters (I plan on one day owning the Bulls and changing their name to that. Hey, it could happen…) will take on the Nets. This game’s lost some of the luster it carried when the schedules came out as the Bulls have been flat-out awful since Derrick Rose got injured (killing both the Bulls’ title chances and the chances of my fantasy basketball team) and the Nets have been bad from the very outset of the season. The Nets’ best player, the unfairly efficient Brook Lopez, is also out for the season. All of Brooklyn’s (many) other stars, sans Joe Johnson, have had various problems–Deron Williams is injured currently and has struggled this year, Paul Pierce has been injured and slumping and got ejected against the Pacers on Monday, and Kevin Garnett left what remained of his offensive game in Boston. All the while, coach Jason Kidd looks like, well, a guy who was playing in the NBA last spring. The Nets have issues and the Bulls simply aren’t very good, but who knows, maybe this game will be a turning point for Brooklyn (it’s more likely than me owning the Bulls someday).

Oklahoma City Thunder (22-5) @ New York Knicks (9-18) 2:30

Who's ready for a little Melo-KD action?

Who’s ready for a little Melo-KD action?

The second game of the day will also come from the Big Apple where the awesome Thunder will play the not-so awesome Knicks. OKC has been simply fantastic this season; Russ Westbrook and Kevin Durant are putting together tremendous seasons, Serge Ibaka is almost averaging a double-double, and guard Reggie Jackson is looking like an emerging star. Throw in improvement from their other youthful guard, Jeremy Lamb, and coach Scott Brook’s steady leadership and you have arguably the NBA’s best team. The Knicks, in the other corner, represent arguably New York’s best team. And the fact that it is an argument explains just how  bad they’ve been. The good news for Carmelo and friends is that the Knicks’ defensive rock, Tyson Chandler, has returned from injury. In his three games back, New York is 2-1 (with wins over dreadful Milwaukee and Orlando, but wins nonetheless) and the Knicks might actually be ready to surge back into the East’s muddled playoff picture. Sharp-shooting rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. has been brilliant for the Knicks and should continue to improve, so there’s that too. If the Knicks can keep up with the Thunder, it should be a fun matinée at MSG.

Miami Heat (21-6) @ Los Angeles Lakers (13-15) 5:00

As nighttime settles over the east coast, these two proud franchises will square off at the Staples Center. Lebron James and the Heat have been as advertised this year. That is to say that the defending champs are incredible once again. Lebron is shooting 60% from the field, which is simply asinine. The Lakers meanwhile have been mediocre. They’ve scored a lot, allowed a lot of points, and played all but six games without Kobe Bryant. The Lakers are eroding and don’t look like a playoff team, but if you’re not enticed simply by the fact that LBJ will be playing, tune in to this game to see Nick Young–Swaggy P is always a good time.

Houston Rockets (18-11) @ San Antonio Spurs (22-6) 8: 00

For my money, this is the game of the day, as these two talented Texan teams (alliteration, baby!) will face off. Houston is off to a great start–James Harden has been busy proving that last year was no fluke (and playing some truly despicable defense on the side), Jeremy Lin is having the best season of his career, Chandler Parsons is looking like a star (although he’s still sneaky bad at free throw shooting), and Dwight Howard is doing his 18-13 thing without much drama. The Rockets won’t wow you with their defense, but boy can they score. The Spurs, on the other hand, will wow you with their defense, as coach Greg Popovich’s team is another keeper. Sure, the Spurs are old as dirt, but they’ve also got that elusive, magical winning formula. Tony Parker is clearly the star of the show in San Antonio, but Kawhi Leonard continues to get better and the Spurs somehow have nine guys averaging at least seven points per game (nine!!!). Rockets-Spurs should be a lot of fun.

Los Angeles Clippers (20-9) @ Golden State Warriors (16-13) 10: 30

Chris Paul and the Clippers are on a nice little winning streak.

Chris Paul and the Clippers are on a nice little winning streak.

To wash all the hoops down, the night will conclude with a game that should be easy on the eyes. The Clippers and Warriors are two of the best offensive teams in the league and this game should be a showcase of scoring. In the off-season the Clippers did what teams with championship aspirations do–they scooped up one of the best coaches in the league (Doc Rivers) and a defensive stopper/glue guy (Jared Dudley). Early returns have been positive, if unspectacular, as the Clippers’ record indicates. Defensively, Doc’s team remains a work in progress, but Chris Paul directs an offense with so many weapons (Blake Griffin, Jamal Crawford, J.J. Redick) that it is almost unstoppable. The Clips have appeared to find their groove of late, winning their last five games. The Warriors, on the other hand, have yet to truly find their groove, although they have won two straight. A big positive so far this year for Golden State has been that their injury-prone center, the highly skilled Andrew Bogut, has been healthy and good. They’ve also received continued excellent production from the “Splash Brothers”, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, plenty of offense from David Lee, and good play from sensational second-year wing Harrison Barnes. The Warriors have been inconsistent so far, particularly on the defensive end, but their array of outstanding offensive players makes them one of the most entertaining teams in the NBA to watch.

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