I write this bit every year: A quick preview of the games on the big NBA holiday, an invitation to chat with us about basketball, celebrations, food, family or whatever’s on your mind. As you all know who have been reading for any length of time, I’m Jewish, so Christmas isn’t my thing. Usually I follow the Jewish tradition of ordering Chinese take-out on Christmas, and while I used to go to the movies as well—a big part of the tradition—now I watch ball.
This year, I was actually invited somewhere, a fairly rare happening, so I’ll be out for a chunk of the afternoon, but will be back in time for the Wolves.
Which is another big change this year; the Wolves are actually playing on Christmas day, at 7:00 pm CST in Oklahoma City on ESPN. I suspect the schedule makers thought they would be better than 9-20 at this point, but oh well. Here we are.
We’ll have a game thread as usual for the Wolves, but this is your open thread for the day.
Before I get to the games, I want to take this opportunity, as I always do, to thank you. To the readers and commenters, to all of our contributors, thank you. This place means a lot to me, and the reason it does is you. Your efforts to make this into a thoughtful community, a caring community, but one with irreverence and wit is what makes it special.
I hope, whether you celebrate this holiday or not, you are able to spend time this season with the people who matter most to you. And I hope you find some time to join us here and chat a bit.
If you are by chance alone this holiday season, something I have experienced in past years, please know that we are here. We’re always here, and I hope we can provide you with the same solace that Canis has provided me in my difficult times.
Celtics at Knicks
11:00 am CST
Things kick off with a match-up at Madison Square Garden. The Celtics have had their stumbles this season and sit at 17-13, a fine record but one that is probably a bit disappointing for them after their big signing of Al Horford over the summer. The Knicks made a plethora of changes in the summer, which most of us were not too impressed with, but are surprisingly 16-13 on the year. Thank you KrisKringle Porzingis.
It might be a bit of a mirage for the Knicks, however, as their Pythagorean record is only 12-17, and they are not a good defensive team. They also struggle to take advantage of their strengths. They shoot threes well, but don’t take many. They shoot free throws well, but don’t get to the line much. Still, they currently sit in the middle of the playoff pack in the East, so for now, things are going OK.
The Celtics do more things well, but have been hampered by their inability to rebound the ball. None of their bigs are great rebounders, and in fact Avery Bradley leads the team in defensive rebound percentage, which can’t be a good thing. Still, they are a quality playoff team with good, in prime talent, and very well coached.
Warriors at Cavaliers
1:30 pm CST
The headliner. Finals rematch. Don’t have to tell you much about these teams.
The Warriors, after a bit of an early defensive struggle, have taken off and once again have the best record in the league. They have been blowing teams out, dominating on both sides of the ball, and the addition of Kevin Durant has made them even more dangerous. Second in the league in both offensive and defensive rating.
The Cavs are cruising along at 22-6 and are clearly the class of the Eastern Conference. They are shooting 40 percent from three as a team, which is incredible, and they seem to have figured out how to best use Kevin Love along with Kyrie Irving and the incomparable LeBron James. Love is averaging 22 and 11 in 32 minutes a game, shooting it great, and seasoning his game by getting to the line again. They have not been a defensive juggernaut (13th in the league,) but it’s also not clear how much effort they are putting into it at this point in the season.
Bulls at Spurs
4:00 pm CST
The Bulls, after doubling down on veterans this summer with the additions of Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo among others, were looking pretty good early in the season. They have lost five of six to fall below .500 however, beginning with their home loss to the Wolves. Jimmy Butler has been playing great ball all season, and Wade and Taj Gibson have been contributing, but there’s a steep drop-off after that. Rondo has been predictably unsatisfying, Nikola Mirotic has dropped off, their bigs don’t score, and with Michael Carter-Williams hurt they don’t have alternative at point guard.
The Spurs continue to Spurs. Without Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard has taken on an even bigger role seamlessly. They are the best three-point shooting team in the league, the defend, they take care of the defensive glass, they have worked Pau Gasol into things, and are once again among the class of the league. Patty Mills is now in basically a job share with Tony Parker, and making the most of it; it’s unclear if he’s missed a shot all season. Danny Green has found his three point stroke after struggling last year. They just play good basketball and get contributions from everyone who plays. It’s amazing to watch.
Wolves at Thunder
7:00 pm CST
Drew will have something on this game later this afternoon, so I won’t bother here, other than to say: Hey! The Wolves are playing on Christmas! I was really hoping they would head into this one on a three game winning streak, but the loss to the Kings ended that idea. I haven’t been counting on a win in this one, but they’ve surprised me before.
Clippers at Lakers
The Clippers are having their usual excellent regular season, but Blake Griffin is out for a while with an injury, and Chris Paul missed their last game (a loss to Dallas) and might not be available for this showcase. Still, they are top five both offensively and defensively. Whether you enjoy watching them or not is a matter of taste. Paul is a fantastic and dynamic player, but the Clips live at the free throw line and it doesn’t always make for the best viewing experience.
The Lakers are young, fast-paced, and not very good, particularly on defense where they allow the highest effective field goal percentage in the league. They were punching above their weight early and were 10-10 at one point. They have since lost 12 of 13 as things have fallen apart. Without Kobe Bryant, and with Luke Walton at the helm, the Lakers play fast with their abundance of guards and smaller wings, but that leads to a bunch of missed shots and turnovers along with awful defensive possessions. They have very little up front, and their big investments in Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov over the summer are looking ill-considered at the moment.
Enjoy the holiday everyone. Enjoy the games. Tell us what you’re up to today in comments. Recipes, as always, are welcome.