NBA Christmas Day: Predictions, Projections and Analysis for All 5 Games
Christmas Day is almost upon us, and as usual, the NBA will be broadcasting fantastic games all day long.
Unlike last season, when the NBA season actually started on Christmas Day due to the lockout, most teams this year have already logged more than 25 games. Now, many of the elite teams in the NBA will face off and compete against one another to try and establish their dominance.
Here are some predictions for each of the five marquee matchups set to take place on Christmas Day.
Boston Celtics at Brooklyn Nets
Time: Noon ET
Christmas Day in the NBA will kick off at noon, as the Boston Celtics will visit the Brooklyn Nets in an Atlantic Division rivalry.
The Nets have a talented backcourt in Deron Williams and Joe Johnson, and Brook Lopez has also looked good this season down low.
Meanwhile, the Celtics still boast a great trio of Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.
The great matchup of this game will be Rajon Rondo vs. Deron Williams. Rondo is averaging 14.3 points and 11.1 assists in December while shooting 52 percent from the field. Meanwhile, Williams is having a down year, shooting just 40 percent from the field and 30 percent from behind the arc, while posting averages of 16.8 points and 8.1 assists a game.
Paul Pierce is also coming into this game and is looking great recently. He is averaging a ridiculous 23.8 points per game in December.
The Celtics might be 4-8 on the road, but they'll come into this game looking for revenge. The Celtics have already lost to the Nets twice this season, once by five points and the other by 12. Now, they will try to play with some added intensity.
In the end, expect Rajon Rondo to dominate this game. Rondo will be the better of the two point guards, and with an added boost from Paul Pierce, the Celtics will edge out a small victory in front of the fans at the Barclays Center.
Final Score Prediction: 100-93 Celtics
New York Knicks at Los Angeles Lakers
Time: 3:00 PM ET
This game should be the most exciting matchup to watch, as it features two of the greatest offensive juggernauts in the league.
The Lakers will pretty much be at full health, and expect them to get out and run with Steve Nash at the point and with Mike D'Antoni coaching.
Meanwhile, the Knicks come into this game with a 20-7 record, and they have won seven of their last 10 games.
The game will be played at the Staples Center, but that shouldn't be much of an advantage for the Lakers. The Lakers are just 8-6 at home this season, while the Knicks are 8-5 on the road.
The key matchup for this game is going to be Kobe Bryant vs. Carmelo Anthony. Although the two won't always be guarding each other, we will definitely see the league's top two scorers try to oust each other offensively. Anthony is scoring 33.7 points and shooting 50 percent from the field in his last 10 games, and Kobe is averaging 33.8 points per game since the start of December.
The last time these two teams played, Anthony scored 30 points in just 23 minutes before leaving the game with an injury. However, he had an absolutely amazing first half, and there's no doubt that he will look to do even more damage to the Lakers in a full game at the Staples Center.
Another key matchup will be down low between two of the league's greatest defensive players in Dwight Howard and Tyson Chandler. Howard has struggled a bit recently, averaging just 15.1 points per game in his past five contests, and reigning Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler will look to shut him down.
The Knicks have a few players out, but they still have a very strong bench led by J.R Smith, who has looked fantastic this season and is averaging 17.4 points in his past 10 games.
In the end, this game will come down to three-point shooting. Anthony will explode for another huge game, while guys like J.R Smith, Steve Novak and Jason Kidd will each knock down a few shots from behind the arc. Kobe Bryant will put up a valiant effort, but the Lakers just won't have the tools to keep up with the Knicks on the offensive end.
Prediction: 115-104 Knicks
Oklahoma City Thunder at Miami Heat
Time: 5:30 PM ET
This is probably the most anticipated matchup of any of the Christmas Day games, featuring two of the best teams in the league in the Thunder and Heat—two teams that also just so happened to play each other in last season's NBA Finals.
And if we're lucky, the players will treat this game as if it were an NBA Finals game. This is the first meeting between these two teams this season, and the Thunder will be looking for revenge. Teams looking for revenge after the NBA Finals have won six of the past seven initial games in the following season, and the Thunder will try to continue that trend.
Interestingly enough, there are more similarities than there are differences between these two teams. Both Miami and Oklahoma City are elite in terms of points per game, field goal percentage and three-point percentage. However, Miami is last in both offensive and defensive rebounding, and the Thunder will try and get an advantage on the glass in order to win this game.
If you haven't guessed it, the key matchup here will obviously be Kevin Durant vs. LeBron James. Durant is averaging 27.9 points and 8.4 rebounds this season, while James is putting up 25.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 6.8 assists a game.
Durant showed that he was capable of guarding LeBron in the playoffs last season, and he will have to contain him again if he wants the win. In the playoffs last year, LeBron averaged 22.9 points per 36 minutes and shot 47 percent from the field and 14 percent from behind the arc when Durant was on the floor. Meanwhile, Durant averaged 25.6 points per 36 minutes and shot 55 percent from the field with James on the floor. If Durant can hold LeBron to just 23 points again, the Thunder should come away with a victory.
The Thunder may be on the road, but that shouldn't stop them. They have a 7-3 record on the road this season, and a dominating performance from Durant combined with an advantage in rebounding should allow the Thunder to take this game by a small margin.
Prediction: 110-106 Thunder
Houston Rockets at Chicago Bulls
Time: 8:00 PM ET
These two teams may not seem particularly elite, but both have had their own surprises so far this year.
For the Rockets, their biggest surprise is James Harden, who is averaging 25.6 points and 5.6 assists a game and seems to have established himself as one of the best shooting guards in the league right now.
Meanwhile, the Bulls have seen a lot of guys step up in Derrick Rose's absence. Joakim Noah has been huge, averaging 13.5 points and 10.6 rebounds a game to go along with a triple-double, and Luol Deng leads the team in scoring with 17.8 points per game.
The Bulls will play this game coming off a 92-75 road defeat against the Hawks, but they have still been hot recently. The Bulls are 7-3 in their last 10 games and they have notched wins against the Knicks, 76ers, Nets and Celtics in December.
Without Derrick Rose, the Bulls often struggle to score, as shown by the fact that they score just 92.8 points per game, which is ranked 26th in the league. They are also without Richard Hamilton, a player who likely could have provided a scoring boost in this game. But even without those two, the Rockets still have of the league's worst defenses, so the Bulls should have no problem scoring in this game.
One player who may have a big game for the Bulls is Luol Deng. We may see Noah with another big game too, but former Chicago Bull Omer Asik is at least a good defender. Chandler Parsons, on the other hand, will likely struggle to contain Deng, and Deng may finish this game with at least 20 or 25 points.
Meanwhile, the Rockets are one of the NBA's top scoring offenses, but James Harden is clearly their biggest threat. Down low, Omer Asik and Marcus Morris will likely be controlled offensively by good Chicago post defenders in Noah, Gibson and even Boozer.
You can expect a huge game out of Harden. Marco Belinelli and Nate Robinson are not fantastic defensive players, and it would not be the least bit surprising to see Harden score 30 or 35 points. However, Houston is just 3-7 on the road this season, and an overwhelming Chicago defense will ultimately lead the Bulls to an easy victory.
Prediction: 99-92 Bulls
Denver Nuggets at Los Angeles Clippers
Time: 10:30 PM ET
Another day, another blowout win for Lob City. The Clippers look unstoppable right now, but they will be put to the test again tomorrow night against the Denver Nuggets.
The Clippers are one of the better offenses in the league, led by Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, and that should be a major advantage for them against the Nuggets, who allow their opponents to score 100.3 points per game.
The Nuggets are not as lucky. Though the Nuggets also have a strong offense, the Clippers have an elite defense that allows opponents to score just 91.6 points per game, good for fourth best in the NBA.
The Clippers are going to go out and run. The Nuggets are 24th in the league in turnovers, and all those extra possessions could become fastbreak highlight reel plays for Paul, Bledsoe, Griffin and Jordan.
Of course, the Nuggets are going to play at their preferred pace as well, which is also very quick. Ty Lawson is one of the fastest players in the league, and players like Danilo Gallinari, Andre Iguodala and Corey Brewer can be good three-point shooting options—although the Nuggets have struggled from behind the arc thus far this season.
Ty Lawson also strained his left Achilles in Sunday's game, and he is questionable for the game against the Clippers. If Lawson is out, or even if he isn't feeling 100 percent, it would be a huge blow to the Nuggets.
Right now, all signs are clearly pointing in favor of the Clippers. They've got a huge amount of momentum because of their current win streak, they're at home and they simply seem better than the Nuggets on both offense and defense. Christmas Day will finish with nothing less than a blowout win for the Clippers.
Prediction: 112-91 Clippers