If you're looking for the full schedule—with predictions to boot—for the slate of Christmas Day NBA games, you've come to the right place.
While you curl up with your stockings stuffed, your presents unwrapped and eggnog sloshing around in your stomach, you're going to want to catch these five games of high-quality basketball.
From noon until a little bit after midnight on the East Coast, superstars will be prancing on the court and whistles will be blowing in an attempt to replace the reindeer and sleigh bells.
So, what should you expect? Let's take a look at the schedule, one game at a time.
Boston Celtics vs. Brooklyn Nets, 12:00 p.m. ET on ESPN
The two key matchups to watch in this Christmas Day opener will be between two point guards and two big men.
Rajon Rondo and Deron Williams will be the more fun showdown to watch because of the ball control they exert on their respective offenses for the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets, but Brook Lopez and Kevin Garnett will determine who wins the game.
It's the classic matchup of unstoppable offense vs. untouchable defense, but Lopez will have to be especially on his game to counter KG's dynamic mid-range game.
Neither of these Eastern Conference playoff contenders has lived up to the expectations during the pre-holiday portion of the 2012-13 season, but this nationally televised contest could be a great springboard for a jump up in the standings.
The point guards and centers may be the key matchups to watch, but the Nets have one more difference-maker in the fold. Joe Johnson has been picking up steam during recent games, and the shooting guard will continue his roll by lighting up the scoreboard in the Barclays Center.
Expect a near triple-double from Rondo and a high-scoring performance from Paul Pierce, but a narrow come-from-behind victory by Brooklyn.
Prediction: Brooklyn Nets 97, Boston Celtics 94
New York Knicks vs. Los Angeles Lakers, 3:00 p.m. ET on ABC
One of the two super-glamorous matchups on this special day of NBA action, the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers will shift the scene to the Staples Center after Spike Lee's favorite squad absolutely owned Round 1 of the series.
Even though the location is changing sides of the country, the result isn't going to be any different. The Lakers are improving and now boast the services of some guy named Steve Nash in the backcourt, but they're still a flawed team at the moment.
On the other hand, the Knicks are proving on a nightly basis that they're a force to be reckoned with in both the Eastern Conference and the Association as a whole.
Even if Amar'e Stoudemire is still out, the three-point shooting and swarming defense will be too much for the Lakers to handle, just as it was the first time around.
Kobe and Melo are going to have one heck of a duel—although the drama won't be intensified by the two superstars guarding each other—but the Knicks will win by a sizable margin.
Prediction: New York Knicks 112, Los Angeles Lakers 99
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Miami Heat, 5:30 p.m. ET on ABC
The marquee game on the Christmas slate gives us a phenomenal rematch of the 2012 NBA Finals. LeBron James and Kevin Durant will be battling it out once more, providing us with the latest edition of a burgeoning individual rivalry.
However, as much fun as it is to watch LeBron and Durant doing what they do best, they aren't the guys who will make the difference in this battle of elite teams. At this point, it seems like both small forwards are just going to get theirs on a nightly basis.
When you watch LeBron and Durant, you simply expect greatness.
Although the players I'm about to discuss each belong in the All-Star conversation, they don't display that remarkable consistency. They aren't X-factors, if you will.
Dwyane Wade's injury-riddled body make him a question mark, although he's still having a far better season than most people are giving him credit for.
Chris Bosh has also been sensational during the 2012-13 campaign, but he's prone to nights where he gets too far out on the perimeter and fails to make an impact on the boards.
For the Thunder, Russell Westbrook carries with him dizzying highs and terrifying lows. One night he plays like the best point guard in the league before following up his incredible performance with a turnover-filled game riddled with poor shot selection. You just have to accept the bad with the good, but the good is enough to make him a clear-cut elite floor general.
Serge Ibaka, on the other hand, has played with consistency but hasn't received nearly enough recognition for his massive strides forward. The Congolese power forward is so much more than a shot-blocking big man now.
He's rotating properly and making enormous defensive impacts while playing with remarkable efficiency and volume on offense.
Ibaka's improved mid-range shooting and confidence with the ball in his hands has been the biggest reason that the Oklahoma City Thunder have overcome the loss of James Harden's playmaking skills thus far.
As you can see in the graphic above, Ibaka is shooting 52 percent from mid-range while taking 46.2 percent of his attempts from that area of the court.
This game will hinge on the level of impact that the Thunder power forward is able to create with his offense. Bosh's underrated defensive play should be just enough for the Heat to eek out a hard-fought victory.
Prediction: Miami Heat 111, Oklahoma City Thunder 110
Houston Rockets vs. Chicago Bulls, 8:00 p.m. ET on ESPN
The Houston Rockets are still learning how to use James Harden and Jeremy Lin at the same time, which is going to make Tom Thibodeau's job far easier than it should be. The defensive mastermind does a solid enough job helping his Chicago Bulls prevent points already.
See all that green in the bottom lines of NBA.com's advanced stat breakdowns? That means that both Harden and Lin have been far better when they're the only member of the starting backcourt pairing on the court for the Rockets through the first 25 games of the 2012-13 season.
Things have been looking a lot better recently, but the chemistry is still at a 101 level in Houston. And now they'll have to deal with the force that is Joakim Noah.
The Chicago Bulls starting center has been on an absolute tear lately. Although I'd argue that Marc Gasol deserves to be a ridiculously close second, B/R's own Kelly Scaletta is absolutely correct when he writes that Noah has become the game's most complete center:
All Noah does is everything.
In fact, in the history of the NBA, not many players have had the kind of season Noah is having. The last center to average 10 points, 10 boards, four assists, two blocks and have a defensive rating below 100 was David Robinson in 1994.
The only other center in the three-point era to accomplish it was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Noah is on pace to become the third.
He might not be the "best" center in the league—that distinction sill belongs to Howard—but he is the most complete.
Just as the long-haired big man from Florida has done so often during his best season yet, he's going to have a major impact on this game. Omer Asik might have looked good against weaker competition, but we'll see just how far he has to go when he attempts to match up with Noah.
Prediction: Chicago Bulls 101, Houston Rockets 95
Denver Nuggets vs. Los Angeles Clippers, 10:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
The Los Angeles Clippers come into this game with a nice 13-game win streak to their credit. It's a stretch that won't end on Christmas.
Although the Denver Nuggets have the legitimate excuse of a horrific schedule as a defense for their underwhelming 15-13 start to the season, this squad is still taking some time to come together.
Andre Iguodala, Ty Lawson and a number of other players have failed to live up the expectations thus far, and the Clippers are a tough team to right the ship against.
Blake Griffin and Chris Paul are playing fantastic basketball, and both the size and depth of the team make it awfully difficult to match up against. The Nuggets won't have an answer when facing 48 minutes of Eric Bledsoe spelling CP3.
Expect lots and lots of highlights, particularly those of the dunking variety.
Prediction: Los Angeles Clippers 98, Denver Nuggets 94
Note: All stats, unless otherwise indicated, are accurate as of Sunday, Dec. 23.
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