The Top 10 Things to Watch for in NBA's Christmas Day Games
Christmas Day is a time when we can all just kick back, enjoy the company of family, drink eggnog and watch the NBA action unfold.
What could be a sweeter present than five marquee matchups, presented in back-to-back fashion from noon until 10:30 p.m. ET?
It's a trick question, because nothing could be better.
So, when you're relaxing on your couch and soaking in those holiday feelings and that festive atmosphere, these are the 10 things you should look forward to most about the Christmas Day action.
10. The New Jerseys
C'mon now. Who doesn't love new jerseys?
Even if they're not for everyone, you're going to want to tune in and see how the NBA's biggest stars look in their new threads.
There will be plenty of new and unique sights on Dec. 25.
For a full breakdown of all the new looks, check out Patrick Clarke's article here.
9. Tom Thibodeau's Defensive Strategies Against Houston's Backcourt
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The Chicago Bulls and Houston Rockets should play a fairly competitive game on Christmas.
Who wins will likely come down to how well Tom Thibodeau's defensive game plan works against the dynamic backcourt employed by his opposition.
James Harden has been one of the NBA's premier scorers during the 2012-13 season, dropping 25.4 points per night with his lethal combination of deadly accuracy from the outside and knack for drawing contact when putting his beard down and driving to the rim.
The pairing with Jeremy Lin hasn't worked out so well for the majority of the season; the point guard has struggled to fit in with a team that doesn't just place the ball in his hands. However, things have been going a bit more smoothly during recent days.
With Harden willing to cede a bit more control over the rock to his backcourt mate, Lin has found his shot with a bit more consistency, enabling Houston to have a little bit more of the two-headed guard monster that it anticipated as soon as the lefty shooting guard arrived in Texas.
Thibodeau, defensive mastermind that he is, will have his work cut out for him during this game in the Windy City.
8. Battle of Elite Point Guards
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The Christmas matchup between the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets may feature two Eastern Conference teams who haven't quite lived up to the expectations, but it does give you a chance to watch two of the best floor generals in the NBA go head to head.
When Rajon Rondo and Deron Williams square off, we'll be treated to a great contrast in styles, although both point guards are sure to help out their teams.
Rondo's defense and brilliance when passing the ball will be beneficial to the C's, but whether or not it's enough to top the physical, dual-threat nature of his point guard counterpart is still up in the air. Williams hasn't found his shot in the Barclays Center, but he'll be looking to change that on the 25th.
There will be plenty to look for in this battle, but you won't want to take your eyes off what's happening in the backcourt.
7. Will Steve Nash Play?
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It's no secret that the Los Angeles Lakers have struggled far more than anyone expected during the pre-Christmas portion of the 2012-13 season.
While the reasons for the rapidly increasing number of losses have constantly been changing, there has been one constant for the Lake Show: Steve Nash has been looking sharp in his suits rather than his purple-and-gold threads.
On Halloween, Nash collided with rookie point guard Damian Lillard and fractured his left leg. He hasn't played since.
Now, there's a chance that Christmas could become the magical date that the two-time MVP returns to the lineup. Apparently holidays are just extra special for Nash.
Here's what ESPNLosAngeles' Ramona Shelburne reported:
But Nash said "it's more likely" he'll return to the court on Christmas Day against the New York Knicks than Saturday against Golden State.
"There's no plan. I just want to get through today, see how I feel in the morning," Nash said. "If I'm able to practice (Friday), see how I feel Saturday, we'll just see how it goes. But I think Christmas is probably the most realistic."
A return to action from Nash would be quite the present for both L.A. and NBA fans who want to see some entertaining basketball.
6. Two Squads Heating Up
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Both the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers are starting to heat up. Well, the Clippers are already on fire, seeing as they're on an 11-game stretch of undefeated basketball that could be at 13 soon enough thanks to upcoming games against the Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns.
That's going to make for a fantastic battle between two of the better teams in the Western Conference.
Moreover, there will be quality basketball played at all times. Each team features both a potent starting lineup and a bench full of capable backups who can make a significantly positive impact on the night's proceedings.
Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Eric Bledsoe, Jamal Crawford, Ty Lawson, Andre Iguodala, Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried, JaVale McGee, Andre Miller and the rest of the players on these two rosters will do everything in their power to ensure that spending the night in front of your television is well worth it.
5. Kobe Bryant Passing Oscar Robertson
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The NBA loves to feature its best and most marketable teams on Christmas Day, which means that Kobe Bryant has received quite a few opportunities to make his mark while the rest of the world watches.
This year, the Black Mamba will be making his 15th appearance on Christmas, separating himself even more from the rest of the pack. According to NBA.com, Dolph Schayes, Shaquille O'Neal and Earl Monroe are tied for the second-most appearances with 13 each.
When he faces the New York Knicks, he'll have a chance to pass Oscar Robertson and become the Association's all-time leading scorer on the holiday.
All Kobe needs is 28 points to tie and 29 to pass the Big O.
That's a hefty bundle of baskets for the shooting guard to stuff into his stocking on Christmas, but it almost seems like a foregone conclusion given the way he's been lighting up the scoreboard during the 2012-13 campaign.
4. Blake Griffin Dunks
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Love him or hate him, you can't help but be entertained by Blake Griffin.
I have one guarantee on Christmas Day: Blake will throw down a monstrous dunk that's worth viewing again on YouTube.
Seriously, when was the last time he failed to do that? Each and every night there's a Los Angeles Clippers game, you can be nearly 100 percent sure that the highlights will contain at least one Blake throwdown that should seriously be considered an assault against the rim.
Will he make Kenneth Faried or JaVale McGee call Timofey Mozgov or Kendrick Perkins for advice on how to show face in public again?
Only time will tell.
We just know that the Clippers power forward will produce a highlight or two.
3. Chasing Bernard King
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On Dec. 25, 1984, Bernard King just had it going.
Playing against the struggling New Jersey Nets, he knocked down 19 of his 30 attempts from the field and a ridiculous 22 of his 26 shots from the charity stripe to score 60 points, which remains both the Christmas Day and New York Knicks' single-game scoring record.
Does anyone else feel like that record could be in jeopardy on Christmas Day in 2012?
Carmelo Anthony has been lighting it up from everywhere during the 2012-13 season, and the Los Angeles Lakers don't exactly play defense. He was on pace for far more than 60 points last time the two teams squared off this season, dropping 22 in the first quarter before the margin between the two teams necessitated a drop in minutes.
I posed the question of whether or not Anthony could break King's record on Christmas to one of my friends, Marvin, and this is how the conversation progressed:
Asked for a gut reaction as to what percentage chance we should give Melo, he immediately said 35 percent. After we actually broke down the situation and discussed how much rest the small forward would have, as well as the fact that the game would be in the Staples Center, he dropped the estimate to just five percent.
But hey, that's still a chance. Don't be surprised at all when Melo is on pace for 60 rather late into the proceedings.
2. NBA Finals Rematch
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The Oklahoma City Thunder will be hankering for a nice cold dish of revenge when they square off with the Miami Heat for the first time since the 2012 NBA Finals. After all, LeBron James and Co. ensured that they didn't stand much of a chance in that series.
Well, LeBron will be doing everything in his power to create a similar result.
But will it be enough?
Kevin Durant and the Thunder—despite a win-streak-ending loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, have been playing some of the best basketball in the league during December. The offense is clicking, and the defense is rolling.
Miami, despite the sparkling win-loss record, has had some issues the last few weeks. The defensive effort in particular has been lagging behind where it should be for a roster with this much talent.
You can be sure that this matchup will bring out the best in both squads, though. We'll be in for a treat with this game.
And you know it's an exciting day of basketball when this matchup, prominently featuring the two best basketball players in the world, doesn't hold down the No. 1 spot.
1. The Inevitable Kobe-Melo Duel
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As soon as the official throws the ball up at center court in the Staples Center for the first time on Christmas Day, a duel will begin between two of the league's premier scorers.
Kobe Bryant is leading the league in scoring at 29.5 points per game, but Carmelo Anthony doesn't trail him by too much. The talented forward for the New York Knicks checks in at 28.0 points per game, beating out Kevin Durant by a minuscule margin.
Kobe and Melo won't spend too much time guarding one another, but they will exchange plenty of presents. It'll be jumper after jumper from the two superstars as they trade points throughout the afternoon.
The first meeting between the Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers saw Melo strike first. He put up 22 points in the opening quarter, finishing with 30 points in only 23 minutes as New York dominated from start to finish at Madison Square Garden.
Kobe ended up with 31 points, but he was far less efficient and walked away with a loss. Will things go better for the Mamba in Round 2?