The NBA has a superb Christmas present for basketball fans today. While the players, coaches and support staff for the ten teams involved might prefer to be at home with their families, and there’s grumbling from others who have to be there (media, arena personnel) it’s a fabulous 13-hour TV show for the rest of us. Enjoy!
December 25 Games
BOS @ BRK: You can start watching over breakfast on the west coast. The first of five games tips off at noon EST, so get those daily lineups set right away. The Nets used Keith Bogans at SF and Gerald Wallace at PF last game, sending Kris Humphries to the end of the bench. Boston has also been tinkering with the starting five, and Paul Pierce has been sensational in the last two games. These intense divisional rivals don’t like each other, and Deron Williams vs. Rajon Rondo is a mini-battle within the war. Peace and goodwill will be on hold for a couple of hours.
NYK @ LAL: At 3:00 Eastern, noon local time, the Lakers will try to outscore Carmelo Anthony. It might be too early a wakeup call for J.R. Smith, and Tyson Chandler will have his hands full with Dwight Howard all afternoon. Now that Steve Nash is back, Kobe Bryant won’t have to run the offense and should get more open looks. Pau Gasol may not be a perfect fit for the “Showtime in Seven Seconds or Less” philosophy, but he’s just getting up to speed after battling knee tendinitis and should keep improving. The L.A. second unit, horribly weak most of the season, now has Metta World Peace, Jodie Meeks and Jordan Hill keeping the pressure on opponents. The pace should be fast — that’s fantasy gold.
OKC @ MIA: Yes, it’s a Finals rematch, but neither team wants to peak today. Fans give these games way more significance than players. Obviously, everyone is trying to win, just not with the same desperation that builds during a playoff series. We know what LeBron James and Kevin Durant can do with the ball; how each plays D might decide the outcome. Russell Westbrook has a huge advantage over any Miami PG, but Dwyane Wade will also be hard to stop, even for defensive ace Thabo Sefolosha. Chris Bosh will be back from a brief illness, so the Heat will be at full strength and I’ll give them the slightest edge.
HOU @ CHI: Regular readers know I love the Rockets, who lead the NBA with 105.4 points per game. However, their high-speed attack is more effective at home, and the Bulls play great team defense. James Harden figures to solve Marco Belinelli, and how Jeremy Lin fares against Kirk Hinrich will be significant. The best battle is in the middle, where Joakim Noah is playing like an MVP candidate. His former understudy Omer Asik returns to Chicago for the first time as the #4 rebounder in the league. I’m a bit concerned about Luol Deng and his sore shoulder. He’s one of those ‘iron men’ who plays hurt, sometimes to the detriment of his stats.
DEN @ LAC: Can the Clippers make it 14 in a row? Absolutely. Chris Bernucca isn’t sure they can be NBA champions while playing such entertaining ball, but Blake Griffin and Chris Paul are no longer a two-man team. The bench, featuring Jamal Crawford and Matt Barnes, has become a potent weapon. Denver can run with anyone, though Ty Lawson (who is expected to play) left their last game early with Achilles soreness. Andre Miller can take on more responsibility as needed. If Andre Iguodala and Danilo Gallinari have good shooting nights, this could be a dandy nightcap.
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