NBA Christmas Day Schedule 2012: Predicting Winners of Tuesday Evening Matchups

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NBA Christmas Day Schedule 2012: Predicting Winners of Tuesday Evening Matchups
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Can Kevin Durant and the Thunder avenge last year's loss in the NBA Finals to the Heat?

The NBA Christmas Day schedule is filled with marquee matchups, and the evening games promise to keep the gifts coming.

Headlined by a championship rematch and supplemented with several showdowns featuring young, upstart teams with some of the brightest young stars in the league, there is plenty of reason to continue tuning in.

Here are breakdowns of these entertaining clashes, including final score predictions for each.

 

Oklahoma City Thunder at Miami Heat

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

What a nice start to the Tuesday night action. Both of these juggernauts sit atop their respective conferences, only separated by a half-game from their counterparts who are also in action today.

There is a definite revenge factor for the Thunder, as they were pummeled in five games by the Heat in last year's NBA Finals. Kevin Durant has upped his game on both ends of the floor, and Kevin Martin has filled in the sixth man role nicely in the absence of Jame Harden.

Combine that with the improvement on offense from power forward Serge Ibaka, and OKC is even more dangerous than a year ago. Russell Westbrook's shot selection is still a concern, though.

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Co. have the home-court advantage in American Airlines Arena. Miami is certainly eager to prove it can hang with the league's elite competition. That has been a criticism of the team early on, but it's likely just a byproduct of conserving energy for another championship push.

Both teams' offenses have been explosive, but the Heat's typically stout defense has been somewhat lackluster, ranking in the middle of the pack in terms of points per game allowed.

That should lend itself to a high-scoring matchup. The X-factor, though, is Ray Allen, whose minutes have been limited in the past four contests thanks to consecutive double-digit Heat victories.

Allen will be fresh to play around 25 to 28 minutes and will outgun Martin in prime time to give Miami the slight edge.

Final Score: Heat 105, Thunder 100


Houston Rockets at Chicago Bulls

Scott Halleran/Getty Images
The Bulls should fear the beard of James Harden.

Jeremy Lin has shaken off an early-season shooting slump and is starting to click with new backcourt mate James Harden, who has lit it up since joining the Rockets just before the regular-season opener.

Despite a 3-7 road record, Houston has to be aiming high in this one after demolishing the Memphis Grizzlies 121-96. Memphis entered the game giving up the fewest points per game in the league, and the Rockets just went off.

Clearly, this team has a ton of potential, and the acquisition of Omer Asik on the inside has given them a dominant paint presence that it desperately needed.

The Bulls, meanwhile, are still managing to hang on while they wait for superstar point guard Derrick Rose to return to the lineup from an ACL injury. Thanks to head coach Tom Thibodeau's defensive genius, Chicago is still leading the Central Division in the Eastern Conference.

But Luol Deng leads the team with 17.8 points per game, and the Bulls only put up 92.8 points per contest as a team, good for just 26th in the NBA.

This is truly a battle of strengths, and it comes down to the Rocket backcourt simply overpowering that of the Bulls'.

Lin and Harden should have no problem taking over the game against the likes of Kirk Hinrich, Marco Belinelli and Nate Robinson. Houston has too much firepower even for a defense like Chicago's to defend without Rose's dynamic abilities on both ends of the floor.

Final Score: Rockets 93, Bulls 90


Denver Nuggets at Los Angeles Clippers

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

The finale to cap off an extremely exciting day will pit two of the league's deeper teams. The hosting, red-hot Clippers have won 13 consecutive games, and nine of those have been by double digits.

For all the heat Vinny Del Negro has taken in his relatively short career as a head coach, things are certainly clicking in L.A. right now. He has the Clippers playing elite defense, something they struggled so much with in the past.

Thanks to newly acquired sixth man Jamal Crawford providing instant offense off the bench, the continued improvement of Blake Griffin and steadiness of point guard Chris Paul, the Clips look like a championship-caliber team—and the best team in L.A. at that.

As for the Nuggets, they have endured an uncommonly brutal schedule. This will mark their 20th road game in 29 contests in the 2012-13 season.

Denver has actually won four of their last five games, and the team has impressively hovered above .500 to this point.

The point guard matchup between Paul and the Nuggets' Ty Lawson will be electric. Andre Iguodala provides Denver with its biggest advantage matchup-wise.

However, the Clips will continue digging themselves out of perpetual irrelevance with win No. 14 in a row.

Final Score: Clippers 115, Nuggets 112

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