NBA Christmas Day is always one of the best days of the year for a basketball fan because of the great matchups we get. Some teams are written in sharpie year after year due for TV purposes, but the league has done a pretty good job this year of working in great matchups for us, the viewers. It’s impossible to predict which teams will take an injury, so some of the shine has come off of the Los Angeles Lakers/Dallas Mavericks and Memphis Grizzlies/Golden State Warriors games due to the Anthony Davis and Stephen Curry injuries, but all in all it’s a good slate of games. Let’s preview each of them.
Philadelphia 76ers at New York Knicks
11:00 AM CST, Watch on ABC
The Christmas Day festivities kickoff in The Big Apple, where two of the hottest teams in the NBA will play. Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers have won six games in a row, and Jalen Brunson’s New York Knicks have won eight of their last ten. Coming into the season, I was relatively low on the Knicks, but they proven me wrong thus far.
The Sportsbooks seem to agree as well, as our friends at DraftKings only have New York as a 1.5 point underdog, granted they are at home. Still, I think before the season I would have viewed this one as two teams in completely different stratospheres, but that’s not really been the case yet thus far. I’m excited to see how old “friend” Tom Thibodeau decides to defend Embiid, as well as how the Knicks’ bully-ball style of play on offense works against a rim protector like Embiid. All things Philly really do just come back to the big fella.
In short, I will simultaneously admit that it looks like I was wrong about the Knicks while also stating that this might be a tough matchup for them. Plus, Embiid has a flare for the dramatic, and is exactly the type of superstar who would look to put on an absolute show at MSG. Give me the Sixers -1.5, even without Tyrese Maxey.
Los Angeles Lakers at Dallas Mavericks
1:30 PM CST, Watch on ABC
As mentioned before, the Anthony Davis foot injury news takes some of the shine off of this one and is just a massive bummer in general, but any game featuring LeBron James, Luka Doncic, and even Russell Westbrook still has great entertainment value. Both teams have struggled a bit this year, but DraftKings still sees Dallas as pretty heavy favorites, sitting at -8 for now.
The Mavs are the hardest team to preview or get a feel for in the entire league, to me. So much of their success just comes down to whether the role players make the three-pointers that Luka creates for them. When the likes of Tim Hardaway Jr., Reggie Bullock, and Dorian Finney-Smith make shots, Dallas is pretty tough to beat! But that often hasn’t been the case, or at least not with any consistency. They rank around the middle of the pack leaguewide in three-point shooting, but they have higher highs and lower lows than most teams.
Even given all of that uncertainty, the Lakers are going to be without their best player, and I have little faith in the rest of the roster. Maybe the Lakers hold on for a while, but I will take the Mavericks to cover in this spot.
Milwaukee Bucks at Boston Celtics
4:00 PM CST, Watch on ABC
This is, easily, the main event of the Christmas Day schedule. Get your family stuff done early or late, but don’t schedule it during this game. In a rematch of the Eastern Conference Semifinals from last season, we get a matchup between what I would consider to be the two best teams in the NBA. This time, both teams are reasonably healthy, with Khris Middleton back in the mix for Milwaukee.
Simply put, this could be a rock fight in the very best way. These teams are going to beat the crap out of each other. Milwaukee is third in the NBA in defensive efficiency (108.1 points per 100 possessions), and Boston is seventh (110.6 points/100), but they have just recently brought Robert Williams III back into the mix which obviously makes a massive difference. While I see this as a low-scoring affair, DraftKings still sees the possibility for their to be some fireworks with a total sitting at 224 points as of writing.
Regardless, I am so excited to see so many different matchups. Can the Celtics defense grind the Bucks offense to a halt with Middleton the same way it did with him absent in the playoffs? Is Middleton up to the task of defending one of Jaylen Brown or Jayson Tatum? Which big between Brook Lopez and Rob Williams will make a larger impact at the rim? These two teams are just so good, and so fascinating. I can’t pretend to have a clue who will win this game, but give me the under on the total of 224 points.
Memphis Grizzlies at Golden State Warriors
7:00 PM CST, Watch on ABC
This game had the potential to rival Bucks/Celtics for the main event, but the injury to Stephen Curry’s shoulder has sucked most of the basketball-related intrigue to this game for me. The biggest reason I’m going to be watching this one is that the combustibility rating is through the roof. There’s no love lost between these teams, which always makes for an entertaining matchup.
DraftKings agrees with this assessment, making the Warriors 4.5 point underdogs at home. I understand that you give the home team three points, but I am still think it’s too low. To put it lightly, Memphis is going to be out for blood, and they’re not the type to let up when they build a lead. This could get ugly. Give me Memphis -4.5.
Denver Nuggets at Phoenix Suns
9:30 PM CST, Watch on ABC
The Christmas Day finale should be a great one, as Devin Booker and the Suns travel to Denver to put on a show with Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets. The matchup between Jokic and Deandre Ayton is a great one, as Ayton has been one of the few guys in the league capable of at least slowing the two-time MVP down one-on-one.
DraftKings has this game projected to be the highest scoring Christmas Day affair, with the total sitting at 230.5. That’s pretty surprising to me, as I kind of expect this to be a lower scoring game. These teams know each other well, and while there’s going to be a lot of offensive talent on the floor, both teams have the defensive pieces to match. So long as Devin Booker plays, this should be a fantastic nightcap, albeit in a game in that goes under 230.5 points.
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