NBA Christmas Day 2017 Schedule: Game-by-Game Preview and Analysis

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistAugust 10, 2017

NBA Christmas Day 2017 Schedule: Game-by-Game Preview and Analysis

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    The NBA isn't pulling punches with its 2017 Christmas Day showdowns this year, which the league announced Thursday night. 

    This year, the Association trained its sights on its flashiest names and the teams which underwent the biggest offseason overhauls. For instance, the Gordon Hayward-led Boston Celtics will collide with the Washington Wizards, a team the Hayward-less Celtics battled for seven hard-fought games in the Eastern Conference semifinals. 

    Elsewhere, the drama-filled Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James will yet again take on the Golden State Warriors in an NBA Finals rematch. Though both teams didn't experience much turnover this summer, that doesn't prevent this matchup from being as interesting as ever. 

    Below, let's look at the full 2017 Christmas Day offerings. 

Philadelphia 76ers at New York Knicks (12 p.m. ET, ESPN)

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    It's not hard to see why the New York Knicks still make for a compelling Christmas Day team. After all, they stirred up some of this offseason's biggest drama by moving on from now-former president Phil Jackson, who created an irreparable divide with superstar Carmelo Anthony on his way out. 

    Since then, Anthony has spent the summer angling to land with the Houston Rockets, according to ESPN.com's Ian Begley. As such, it's impossible to know whether Anthony will be suiting up next to budding star Kristaps Porzingis and No. 8 overall pick Frank Ntilikina for this matchup. 

    Either way, the Knicks will make for compelling basketball, as it bears watching how the team operates free from the shackles of Jackson's obsession with the triangle offense. 

    Meanwhile, Porzingis against Joel Embiid is the heavyweight bout fans deserve to tip off Christmas Day. 

    The Philadelphia 76ers receiving this type of marquee TV appearance speaks volumes about the appeal of the budding playoff contender. Embiid is the center of attention thanks to his fan-friendly ways and his per-game averages of 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks last year across 31 outings. 

    Flanking Embiid is this year's top pick, Markelle Fultz, not to mention free-agent addition J.J. Redick and the return of 2016 No. 1 pick Ben Simmons. It's not difficult to understand why the NBA would want to feature the 76ers on a national stage. 

    This matchup is designed to showcase two teams hoping to forge ahead into 2018 on a high note.  

Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden State Warriors (3 p.m. ET, ABC)

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    In an offseason defined by drama, nobody managed to top the Cleveland Cavaliers. 

    After meekly bowing out of the Finals in five games, Cleveland failed to make notable trades or sign impact free agents. Instead, the Cavaliers parted ways with general manager David Griffin, and star point guard Kyrie Irving reportedly requested a trade, according to ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst. The Cavs' biggest notable addition to date is now-journeyman point guard Derrick Rose.

    There's no way to know whether Irving, Rose or somebody else will serve as Cleveland's starting point guard alongside LeBron James come Dec. 25. By the time that date rolls around, though, we'll have a better sense as to whether the offseason drama derailed the team and provided an opening for the rest of the Eastern Conference. 

    The Warriors, meanwhile, spent this summer siting back with their hands behind their collective heads and watch the resulting chaos in the wake of an almost casual run to an NBA title last year. The rich only got richer, too, as Kevin Durant signed a new team-friendly contract to ensure the front office could keep the championship core together.

    While Ian Clark and Matt Barnes left, the Warriors retained Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, David West, Zaza Pachulia and JaVale McGee while signing Nick Young and Omri Casspi in free agency. They also pilfered second-round pick Jordan Bell away from the Chicago Bulls for the paltry sum of $3.5 million.

    This matchup speaks for itself, though the Cavaliers saw fit to provide a major selling point anyway. Not only will the Irving trade drama swirl for the foreseeable future, but James can also leave the franchise in free agency next summer, too.

Washington Wizards at Boston Celtics (5:30 p.m. ET, ABC)

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    Making the biggest free-agent splash of the summer is a good way to land on the Christmas Day slate. 

    A year ago, Isaiah Thomas and the Celtics suited up for the Dec. 25 game and beat the Knicks at home, 119-114, before going on to seize the top slot in the Eastern Conference. They made it all the way to the conference finals before bowing out in five games against the Cavaliers. 

    Boston responded this offseason by adding Hayward, who averaged 21.9 points on 47.1 percent shooting in 2016-17 while taking the Jazz to the playoffs. The Celtics now tout a Big Three of their own with Hayward, Thomas and Al Horford, not to mention a pair of No. 3 overall picks in Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.

    Beantown's newest potential superteam could encounter quite the hiccup on Christmas Day, however. The Wizards pushed Boston to the edge in last year's playoffs, forcing a seven-game series out of the top seed. 

    Coming off a 49-win season and the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference, the Wizards largely stood pat this offseason. They signed John Wall to a supermax extension and matched the Brooklyn Nets' four-year max offer sheet for Otto Porter Jr. to retain their core, and they rounded out their bench by acquiring Jodie Meeks, Tim Frazier and Mike Scott. 

    While the Wizards weren't flashy enough to earn a Christmas Day game a year ago, their scrappy, physical playoff series against both the Atlanta Hawks and Celtics make them worth trotting out at major points on the schedule. 

    As ESPN.com's Chris Forsberg wrote in April, Wizards-Celtics is the best unexpected rivalry in the NBA. Given the potential playoff implications of this game, the bad blood should only grow deeper on Christmas.

Houston Rockets at Oklahoma City Thunder (8 p.m. ET, ABC)

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    An offseason of big movement in the Western Conference gave the NBA an easy scheduling decision. 

    Just before free agency kicked off, the Houston Rockets stunned the league by stealing Chris Paul away from the Los Angeles Clipppers for a package including Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell. Though James Harden posted averages of 29.1 points, 11.2 assists and 8.1 rebounds while operating as Houston's full-time ball-handler last season, teaming with Paul should spare him from getting gassed late in games. 

    One of the league's top new backcourts could give the Oklahoma City Thunder headaches on Christmas Day. Then again, OKC has reigning league MVP Russell Westbrook at its disposal.

    After Durant fled to Golden State, Westbrook put on a show last year while lifting the Thunder to 47 wins and a playoff berth. His per-game averages of 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists made him just the second player in NBA history to average a triple-double across an entire season.

    Despite Westbrook's heroics, the Thunder weren't content to stand pat this offseason. They struck up a deal with the Indiana Pacers for Paul George, who averaged 23.7 points and 6.6 rebounds while guiding his team to the playoffs.

    With Westbrook and George aboard, few teams will have more at stake around the holidays, as both players could bolt OKC in free agency after the season. 

Minnesota Timberwolves at Los Angeles Lakers (10:30 p.m. ET, TNT)

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    It wouldn't be Christmas Day without the Los Angeles Lakers. Especially this year.

    New team president Magic Johnson didn't just hop aboard and take control of the franchise. The Lakers didn't just ship away both D'Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov's albatross of a contract. No, the team also lucked into being able to draft Lonzo Ball and won the Kentavious Caldwell-Pope sweepstakes. 

    The Lakers aren't constructed to compete for a championship this coming season, as second-year forward Brandon Ingram will complement their Ball-KCP backcourt. Julius Randle may be part of the team's long-term outlook as well, while new center Brook Lopez should provide some much-needed veteran leadership to L.A.'s young locker room.

    Meanwhile, few offer teams as much short- and long-term intrigue as the Minnesota Timberwolves. After drafting Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns over the past few years, the Wolves accelerated their rebuild process by trading for former Chicago Bulls star Jimmy Butler and signing point guard Jeff Teague. The fresh-new team with fresh-new threads should be on track as a unit by the time Dec. 25 arrives. 

    This matchup has it all. Teague against Ball. Wiggins against Ingram. KCP and Butler. Lopez looking to school KAT down low. Randle and Taj Gibson playing bully-ball.

    NBA fans won't be able to resist this late-night affair, just as the league intended.  

              

    All stats and info via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.