The NBA returns to our television screens after a day off, giving us five awesome Christmas Day presents. Sunday’s five-game slate helps make up for a lack of NFL action going on, while we also get a sweet rematch of the last two NBA Finals when the Golden State Warriors touchdown in Cleveland to battle the Cavaliers.
It’s going to be an intense day of basketball, and it stretches across all of Sunday with the action starting at noon and going until 10:30 pm ET.
The Celtics and Knicks tip things off with the first Christmas Day game, giving us a classic Eastern Conference rivalry match. From there, we get an NBA Finals rematch, a solid game between the Bulls and Spurs and then a young Wolves team going up against triple-double machine, Russell Westbrook.
To end the night, we get a home vs. home battle at the Staples Center, as the Battle of Los Angeles commences between the Clippers and Lakers. It’s going to be as loaded as five-game slates get, so if you plan on throwing down any bets, be sure to run through our breakdown and picks:
Isaiah Thomas and company look to continue their hot run into New York, where the Knicks have fared well (11-4). Both squads have looked good lately and with a big home win, Carmelo Anthony and the Knickerbockers could force their way into second place in the Atlantic Division.
As solid as the Knicks have been, they are still missing the defensive element to combat the Celtics, who are among the most balanced teams in the NBA. That’s shown true in this series, as Boston destroyed the Knicks earlier this year and has now won each of the last three meetings. Boston’s dominance extends even further than that, as the Celtics have won 7 of the last 8 games in this series.
The main issue is the Celtics can hurt you from a number of directions, but New York only has three star players that can impact the game. With Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley on hand to help limit Derrick Rose and Carmelo Anthony, Boston can effectively shrink the game down to just Kristaps Porzingis. Zinger could still come through big in this huge Christmas Day showdown, but the odds still favor the visiting Celtics.
The game of the day is absolutely going down in Quicken Loans Arena, as NBA fans get an NBA Finals rematch when the Dubs and Cavs wage war. Cleveland is an imposing threat, as they’re 14-2 at home and sport the best three-point shooting in the entire league.
Golden State won’t be shying away from this one, of course, as they’re a blistering 14-2 on the road this year and bring the league’s top offense (117 points per game) to the table. More works in Golden State’s favor here, as the Dubs actually rank as the 3rd most efficient defense in the NBA and also have an element Cleveland doesn’t know yet in Kevin Durant.
On top of the mild edges the Dubs look to have in this one, J.R. Smith is out (thumb) and big man Kevin Love (knee) could also be rested. Regardless, Golden State has been the better team and they’ll want to dish out some early payback for their title loss last summer.
The action doesn’t stop in Texas, as the Bulls and Spurs meet for the second time this year. Chicago has been known to play up to their tougher opponents, and that’s precisely what they did in a 95-91 win over the Spurs earlier in December.
San Antonio is without a doubt the better team, and after resting Pau Gasol and Tony Parker on Friday, will be 100% at full strength as they look to even up the season series. The Bulls have regressed mightily since beating the Spurs, as they’ve gone just 3-7 over their last 10 games. Chicago limps into this one with an erratic offense and a shaky 6-8 road record, too, while the Spurs are far more reliable (8-4 at home and 23-6, overall).
The competition should take a hit for this one, but everyone will get up to see Russell Westbrook go for yet another triple-double. It’s possible the Wolves give OKC a fight here, also, considering they won three of their last four going into Friday night.
The Wolves are gaining confidence and can hurt the Thunder in a number of ways, as Karl-Anthony Towns can rule the paint and both Zach Lavine and Andrew Wiggins can hit from outside or attack the rim. The unfortunate reality is the Wolves stink on the road, of course (5-9) and have also struggled in this series (Thunder are 11-1 in the last 12 meetings). It’s unlikely that suddenly changes course in OKC, where the Thunder are a solid 11-6 on the season.
The battle of L.A. gets going on Sunday night, and provides Christmas Day with an interesting nightcap. Chris Paul (hamstring) could sit this one out and Blake Griffin (knee) is sidelined for over a month, so it’s not crazy to think the Lakers could drive home a win against a depleted Clippers team.
The Lakers have certainly been at their best at home this year (6-7) and have a deep and balanced offense that always has the potential to get hot. If that happens, it could combine for the perfect opportunity to upend the Clippers for the first time in an astonishing 11 tries.
While the Clippers are certainly shorthanded here, it’s still possible CP3 suits up and we have to respect L.A.’s solid depth across the board. The Lakers have also been flat out reeling lately (1-9 over their last 10 games), so they’re impossible to trust. With or without Chris Paul, betting on the Clips to nab their 12th straight in this series doesn’t feel like much of a gamble.