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Christmas Day Open Thread

Welcome to a full day and night of NBA basketball, and hopefully some fellowship with your favorite online community.

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

I usually use this Christmas Day thread to thank everyone for reading and participating on Canis Hoopus, and see no reason to change it now.

So, thank you all. It's a constant joy to me that so many smart, thoughtful people spend time discussing basketball and other things at a website I manage. This place remains special to me and I hope brings you both joy and stimulation throughout the year.

My fervent hope if you are a celebrant today is that you are celebrating with people you love. I also hope you can sneak away for some basketball and chat here, but more important that you are with family and/or friends, and are reminded of how priceless those relationships are.

If you aren't a celebrant, I hope you aren't too frustrated by everything being closed today, and also that you spend some time with us watching the NBA and chatting here.

As most of you know, I'm Jewish, so Christmas isn't really a thing for me. Usually I would order Chinese food and watch basketball today, but because my daughter celebrates Christmas with her mother, I decided to give her the Jewish Christmas experience on Wednesday, so we ordered Chinese food and watched some episodes of "Master of None" on Netflix.

Which means I'm going to cook something for myself today, but more importantly, crack open a bottle of wine this afternoon and enjoy some NBA basketball.

On to the games:

Pelicans at Heat
11:00 CST

The Pelicans have been one of the biggest disappointments so far this season, in part because of injury, and in part because their defense has plummeted to 29th overall in the league. Still, after starting out 1-11, they are now 9-19, so they haven't completely folded the tent. Anthony Davis remains a star and one of the top players in the league, but has not made the predicted step forward this year when he was tabbed by many to be MVP. He's also 22 years old, so a consolidation year isn't exactly damaging to his future prospects. Alvin Gentry was brought in as head coach to replace Monty Williams and add some offensive dynamism to the Pels, and while the offense has been humming along (7th best in league), the defense has completely fallen off a cliff. It's very early, but the Gentry hire must be seen as something of a disappointment so far.

The Heat are sitting at 16-11, among a group of teams clearly behind the Cavs in the Eastern Conference. They are a largely veteran team led by Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, and their experience has led them to a top 10 defensive ranking. They are a bit shallow offensively, however, with both Bosh and Wade no longer dominating on a nightly basis, and they lack the three point shooting necessary to be a top offense in today's NBA. Still, the fact they have managed to stay at least somewhat relevant post-LeBron James is impressive, and speaks to their organizational strength.

Bulls at Thunder
1:30 pm CST

ABC always starts their NBA coverage on Christmas day, and this will be the first ABC game of the season. The Bulls (15-11) are another of those teams jostling around behind the Cavs in the East under first year coach Fred Hoiberg. The hope was that Hoiberg would improve their offense, but right now the Bulls are poor on that end (27th in the league) while remaining one of the top defensive teams (3rd). Hoiberg has sped them up considerably (9th in pace) but it isn't making them any better. Part of this is a lack of three point shooting that Hoiberg emphasizes: they aren't shooting enough because other than Doug McDermott and Tony Snell, they don't shoot it well enough. The biggest problem offensively for the Bulls, however, is Derrick Rose. Rose is carrying a 25% usage rate with an efg% of 39%, which is a disaster. There is talk that they might trade one of their bigs (Taj Gibson or Joakim Noah) for more offense, which, OK, but unless Rose starts playing better it's not going to matter.

The Thunder are drafting along behind the Warriors and Spurs in the 3rd spot in the West. After a slow 7-6 start while Kevin Durant missed a few games and was getting back into his groove, the Thunder have gone 13-3 since, separating themselves from the rest of the chasing pack in the West. They are in the top 10 both offensively (2nd) and defensively (9th), have two transcendent stars that can carry them in any game, and a group of role guys that are impressive defensively. They are a terrific shooting team as well as tops in offensive rebounding, which is tough to beat, and do as good a job as anyone outside San Antonio at protecting the rim defensively (2nd in blocks, 2nd in opponents' FG% at the rim). If they can be healthy heading into the playoffs, it might turn into a three team battle for the West title.

Cavaliers at Warriors
4:00 pm CST

The marquee match up of the day. The top teams in each conference meeting for the first time since the Warriors won Game Six of the Finals in June. Steph Curry vs. LeBron James.

All of that. Don't need to describe these teams too much I don't think: The Warriors have been the class of the NBA since the season started, entering this game with a shocking 27-1 record and leaving devastation in their wake. They have the top offense in the league and play at the highest pace, making them probably the most entertaining team in the NBA. They hit teams with brutal, high tempo runs usually led by Steph Curry's insane, game breaking shooting ability and Draymond Green's all around brilliance at both ends of the floor. What is there to say? They can shoot anyone out of a game, and also have the 5th ranked defense in the league. They are pretty good.

The Cavs are also pretty good, sitting atop the East at 19-7 with Kyrie Irving just returning from injury in the last couple of games. LeBron James, though perhaps a bit off his peak, remains a potent force in all areas of the game, Kevin Love seems to have found his game with the Cavs after a rocky first year, and the Cavs are 4th in both offensive and defensive rating. It will be interesting to see if their pace increases with Irving back, but this is a battle of the fastest team in the league against one of the slowest. The Cavs use their superior rebounding ability and physicality in a much slower tempo than the up-and-down Warriors, and keeping the pace under control is essential for the Cavs to have a shot in this one.

Spurs at Rockets
7:00 pm CST

We Wolves fans saw just how devastating the Spurs can be on Wednesday night, (and we get to see them against our Wolves again on Monday), with their incredible ball movement on offense and rim protection on defense. They are by far the best defensive team in the league so far this season, and their offense, despite not doing it in "modern" ways, is 3rd in the NBA. They have seamlessly transitioned once again, with Kawhi Leonard now their most potent offensive force, adding LaMarcus Aldridge to the mix, and still getting great contributions from their older cohort. It's amazing. They are 25-5, and the only question is whether they will be healthy when the post-season comes around. If they are, a fantastic battle with the Warriors looms, something every NBA fan should savor.

The Rockets have been a major disappointment. After a 50 win season and a trip to the Western Conference Finals, the Rockets sit at 15-15 this season, mostly due to a serious defensive slippage. Following a 4-7 start, the Rox fired coach Kevin McHale and replaced him with J.B. Bickerstaff, under whom they have been only marginally better. They remain capable of beating anyone, but there is no consistency. James Harden is once again one of the league's top scorers, but is getting very little help offensively. Among the top 10 Rockets in minutes played, only Marcus Thornton (9th) in addition to Harden carries a usage over 20%. Dwight Howard is a shadow of his former self, Ty Lawson has not worked out as a dice roll picked up from the Nuggets, and they don't quite have the personnel for how they want to play. While it's possible they make a 2nd half of the season run or even a playoff run, it doesn't appear the Rockets have the necessary components to be a serious championship contender at this point. Daryl Morey rarely sits still, so expect some transactions for the Rockets.

Clippers at Lakers
9:30 pm CST

Blech. The Lakers on Christmas day because of course they are. People still watch them, though they are one of the least entertaining teams in the league. 29th offensively and 30th defensively is impressive to manage, but not fun. Kobe Bryant continues to hoist at will in his final season, no-future guys like Nick Young and Lou Williams continue to get minutes and shots, they can't stop anyone and are atrocious on the boards. They have a couple of interesting youngsters, and D'Angelo Russell seems to be getting a handle on the NBA after a rough start to his rookie year, but Byron Scott is the worst coach in the league right now, and the Lakers seem to have no concept of what they are trying to achieve.

The Clippers, the league's most disliked team due to their flopping, cheap shotting, and whining, have been up and down this year, currently sit at 16-13 in a group behind the West's three best teams. They remain potent offensively with Blake Griffin and Chris Paul leading the way and DeAndre Jordan benefiting from the attention those two receive as well as their passing chops, but are mediocre defensively, and their bench, a problem in recent years, is even worse with the decline of Jamal Crawford. They are a surprisingly poor rebounding team despite the presence of Griffin and Jordan, and are the 2nd worst free throw shooting team in the NBA.

Well, that's the lineup for today. I hope you enjoy your holiday, and enjoy some basketball if it's on the agenda. I'll be here most of the day ready to chat. Let us know about your holiday traditions whether you celebrate Christmas or not.

Have a wonderful day everyone.