Dwight Howard and Tim Duncan will face off on Christmas Day.
'Tis the season to be an NBA fan.
Christmas has finally arrived, and one of the most superstar-laden days of the year is officially underway. The 2013-14 campaign has been full of surprises, and while they haven't all been merry, they've each contributed to the narrative.
Entering the 2013 holiday lineup, a number of games lack the luster they had when the schedule was released. The injury bug has been a real Scrooge this season, and as a result, the mystique surrounding teams like the Brooklyn Nets and Chicago Bulls is all but gone for the casual viewer.
But while a number of teams have disappointed, don't consider this year's lineup a lump of coal. Kevin Durant and LeBron James will take the court back-to-back on ABC, and then James Harden and Chris Paul will do the same on ESPN.
Finding time to catch each contest can be difficult amid family gatherings, but we here at Bleacher Report have you covered. The most enthusiastic fans will watch all five games, but if that's not an option, you'll need a guide to the most watchable matchups.
Chicago (10-16) at Brooklyn (9-18)
Time: Noon ET
Let's be honest: This one sounded much better when it was scheduled during the offseason.
The Chicago Bulls and Brooklyn Nets forced seven games in the 2013 playoffs, and the Nets improved over the offseason via a blockbuster trade with the Boston Celtics.
The Bulls were also slated to bring back Derrick Rose, who had been absent during the impressive run during the 2012-13 season.
Both teams were seen as contenders, and a new rivalry was going to be sparked en route to a bitter battle all the way through the postseason.
Wrong. Oh so very wrong.
As for Chicago, Rose's absence has spelled trouble with capital letters at this point in the season.
Neither team looks as if it can compete with the Indiana Pacers or Miami Heat, and neither team will entertain the casual viewer on Christmas afternoon. Unless you're a fan of "Paul Pierce versus a questionable Luol Deng" or "Deron Williams versus a questionable Kirk Hinrich," put this one on the bottom of your list.
Oklahoma City (22-5) at New York (9-18)
Time: 2:30 p.m. ET
The intrigue here is obvious. The last four scoring champions are all sharing the court, and you only have to find Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant to identify them.
At this point in the season, the Oklahoma City Thunder and the New York Knicks are headed in different directions. OKC is second in the Western Conference, while the Knicks are fighting for their playoff lives.
This matchup is low on the list because of the lopsided possibilities that could arise, but watching Anthony and Durant go head-to-head should fascinate any fan league-wide.
Unfortunately for fans, Anthony is questionable with an ankle injury, according to Frank Isola of New York Daily News. Melo was quoted saying, "I haven’t been a hundred percent since I came into the NBA...so I won’t be a hundred percent Wednesday."
As discouraging as that is, Knicks fans can find solace in his follow-up statement: "It’s Christmas in the Garden. I don’t want to miss that game."
The true variable here is Russell Westbrook. The guard, who has been spectacular in his return, has an opportunity to blow this game wide-open. If he does, don't expect a close contest.
However, if the Knicks can contain one star or the other, we're looking at a home team with momentum. New York is desperate to be relevant once again, and a win on Christmas Day could be the catalyst it needs to spark a decent season.
Miami (21-6) at Los Angeles (13-15)
Time: 5 p.m. ET
Once upon a time, this would have been the premier matchup of the Christmas Day lineup. The two teams would be on a crash course to the NBA Finals, and Kobe Bryant and LeBron James would compete in one of the finest battles the league had seen in recent history.
As it turns out, the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers are going in different directions, and the same thing can be said about LeBron and Kobe.
Despite the Mamba's dramatic return earlier this season, his subsequent exit puts a serious damper on this contest. The Lakers are as irrelevant as they've been in a long time, and without Bryant on the floor, James and crew have the edge going into the third game of the holiday.
To L.A.'s advantage, the contest will be played at home. The team is just 7-6 at Staples, but it's a favorable situation compared to playing in Miami, where the Heat are an impressive 14-2.
Don't forget, either, that Nick Young has brought with him a swag that is at least fun to watch. He's brought life to an otherwise lifeless team, and with the possibility of Carmelo Anthony being absent in New York, this one claims the No. 3 spot.
James may not like playing on the road—or playing in his new uniform—but in all likelihood, he will enjoy the outcome. This one will be watched simply because of the bright lights, but barring a catastrophic performance from the Heat, Miami should walk away victorious.
Houston (18-11) at San Antonio (22-6)
Time: 8 p.m. ET
In case there weren't enough injuries to go around, James Harden is questionable entering this contest.
His absence would put a serious damper on the evening's events, but have no fear—Tim Duncan and Dwight Howard are here.
With superstars at every turn, this game is an honorable mention for the top battle of the night. If the playoffs started today, the two would face off, with the No. 6 Rockets averaging the second-most points, while the No. 3 Spurs give up the fourth-fewest.
To the credit of these two teams, this contest could be the most entertaining. The instate rivals have key matchups all over the floor, and both are competing for home-court advantage in a brutal Western Conference.
Jalen Rose of ESPN (via NBA.com) put it perfectly when he said, "Coach (Gregg Popovich), please, please, please play Tim (Duncan), play Manu (Ginobili) and play Tony (Parker)."
Without the stars, this is just another game. With them, it's one of the best on the Christmas Day linenup.
Los Angeles (20-9) at Golden State (16-13)
Time: 10:30 p.m. ET
Is there a better venue for a Christmas nightcap than Oracle Arena?
The Golden State Warriors were the darlings of the 2013 playoffs, and while they haven't been what we expected this season, they're still one of the most entertaining squads in the league.
The key matchup in this one is obvious: Chris Paul and Stephen Curry will face off in a battle of elite guards, and they'll challenge one another to step up on the defensive side of the floor.
This game has the potential to be one of the closest-scoring affairs of the night, and while the offenses will be highlighted, you can't ignore defense. Both teams are tied for 10th in the league in points allowed, giving up 99.1 points per contest.
If you can only catch one game Christmas Day, make it this one. Excitement will be in the air, and the Warriors will be looking for revenge following their loss to the Clips on Halloween night.