NBA Christmas Day 2014 Schedule: Game-by-Game Preview and Analysis
When it comes to the sports calendar, the NBA owns Christmas.
Every year, the Association lines up a number of showdowns on Dec. 25 featuring the marquee teams and players in the league. The games are always rife with storylines and have become appointment viewing for even casual basketball fans.
With that in mind, let’s take a detailed look at the contests you will be watching this year after you open your presents.
Washington Wizards at New York Knicks
Noon ET, ESPN
Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post noted that it is a big deal for the Washington Wizards to be on the Christmas slate:
In a sign of the Wizards’ rising profile, the NBA has scheduled the team to play at noon on Christmas Day against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. It will be the first time the Wizards have played on Christmas since 2008, when they fell to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Washington knocked off the Chicago Bulls in the NBA playoffs a year ago and signed playoff-tested veteran Paul Pierce in the offseason. The Eastern Conference is wide open after LeBron James left for Cleveland and Paul George broke his leg, and the Wizards are primed to compete for at least the No. 3 seed.
With Pierce, John Wall, Bradley Beal, Nene Hilario and Marcin Gortat, the Wizards simply have more depth than the rebuilding New York Knicks. Yes, Phil Jackson managed to bring Carmelo Anthony back, but this is largely the same roster that won only 37 games last season.
Adding Jose Calderon won’t put New York over the likes of Washington this year. Perhaps Jackson can do something in the future.
Prediction: Washington 98, New York 94
Oklahoma City Thunder at San Antonio Spurs
2:30 p.m. ET, ABC
A matchup between the defending NBA champs and the team most likely to steal their throne in the Western Conference is sure to draw headlines.
The Oklahoma City Thunder swept the San Antonio Spurs in all four regular-season games last year, but the Spurs got their revenge when it mattered most in the Western Conference Finals. Yes, Serge Ibaka missed some time in that series, but the Spurs won all three games on their home floor in dominating fashion and stole one in Oklahoma City.
While James, Anthony and some of the league’s best players made the most headlines this offseason, the Spurs quietly brought back their entire core from a team that dominated the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals. Until someone knocks them off the mountaintop, the Spurs are the title favorites.
However, the young and talented Thunder presented too many problems during the regular season for the Spurs because of Ibaka’s ability to control the lane on the defensive end and space the floor with a mid-range jumper offensively. A healthy Ibaka paired with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant will be enough for the Thunder on Christmas.
It certainly was during the regular season last year.
Prediction: Oklahoma City 101, San Antonio 93
Cleveland Cavaliers at Miami Heat
5 p.m. ET, ABC
It’s the matchup everyone has been waiting for—Luol Deng against his former team.
Alright, so this is on the Christmas schedule because James will face the Miami Heat for the first time since returning to the Cavs. It’s safe to say he left Miami on better terms than when he left Cleveland in 2010 thanks to the two championships James won with the Heat, but the crowd reaction will still be interesting.
The thought here is that the majority of Miami fans will realize James was instrumental in the team’s four consecutive trips to the NBA Finals and simply wanted to return home. Who hasn’t felt the tug of home at some point in their life?
That will lead to a subdued reaction and perhaps even some muffled cheers for the King during introductions.
As for the actual game, the Miami Heat will circle this one from the start of the season. The crowd will be fired up, and Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Deng and company will find an extra gear. The Cavs have the better roster and are a legitimate threat to win the title, but Miami will feed off of the energy in the building for one night and come away with the victory.
Prediction: Miami 96, Cleveland 91
Los Angeles Lakers at Chicago Bulls
8 p.m. ET, TNT
The Los Angeles Lakers and the Chicago Bulls are two of the league’s dominant brands, so it’s no wonder the NBA set up this matchup.
It is filled with storylines outside of just the showdown between the team with the second-most NBA titles and the team with the third-most. For one, Pau Gasol will face off against the Lakers for the first time since leaving, while Carlos Boozer squares off with Chicago on the other side.
Gasol helped the Lakers win a Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy during his tenure, and Boozer was often criticized by Chicago fans for his poor defense. Safe to say, Lakers fans will probably be happier to see Gasol than Bulls supporters will be about Boozer.
Joakim Noah, Gasol, Taj Gibson, Nikola Mirotic and even Doug McDermott make up one of the best frontcourts in the NBA, and Jimmy Butler will at least contain Bryant with his strong defense. Talent wins out in this Christmas showdown.
Prediction: Chicago 91, Los Angeles 83
Golden State Warriors at Los Angeles Clippers
10:30 p.m. ET, TNT
There’s nothing like some good old-fashioned hate on Christmas.
The Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors played in an emotional and back-and-forth series in the first round of the 2014 NBA playoffs. It went the full seven games, five of which came down to the final minutes. The Clippers eventually won after overcoming an early double-digit deficit in a dramatic Game 7.
The thrilling series wasn’t the only time these two teams made headlines last year.
Blake Griffin was ejected in a physical Christmas matchup against the Warriors that only escalated the competitive tension between the two squads. Broadcaster Reggie Miller commented on the hatred during the playoffs in a conference call, via Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times:
"Any time you hate a team, you can throw out who’s hurt and who’s not playing because it becomes personal," said Miller. "We’re going to see a lot of hard fouls in this series. David Lee and Blake Griffin can’t stand each other and I love it."
The Warriors will be motivated in this one with revenge on their minds and will come out hot from behind the three-point line. Both teams will be playing their third game in four days, so fatigue will begin to set in during the second half. That means an early lead will prove particularly important.
Prediction: Golden State 105, Los Angeles 99
The Christmas Day schedule, along with a full season schedule, can be viewed at NBA.com
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