NBA Opening Day: Preview and Prediction of Each Game on Christmas

Daniel Hudson@daniel3417Correspondent IIIDecember 23, 2011

NBA Opening Day: Preview and Prediction of Each Game on Christmas

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    Finally, the day has come: It's time to watch some NBA. Here is a preview and prediction for each game on Christmas Day.

    It's the most wonderful time of the year, indeed! The lockout is over! The bells are ringing! Glory to Kris Humphries in the highest!

    The league's tipoff schedule features both teams from Los Angeles, a rematch of the 2011 NBA Finals, a timeless New England rivalry, the baby-faced contenders from Oklahoma and more. Even if you've been naughty and are stuck with coal, Santa has come and given you terrific basketball.

    Road teams will edge out their home counterparts 3-2 on Sunday. Here's a comprehensive look at each game.

Boston Celtics at New York Knicks

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    The first game of Christmas Day will feature a classic intercity rivalry between Boston and New York. The Celtics and Knicks will go toe-to-toe within the hallowed walls of Madison Square Garden.

    The Knicks made a great signing of Baron Davis earlier this week, but a back injury is going to keep him out several weeks, so we'll see New York led by the point guard duo of Mike Bibby and Toney Douglas.

    The Celtics know exactly what and who they are. The only difference in their starting lineup this year versus last year is the change at center—from Shaquille O'Neal to Jermaine O'Neal. Boston even made sure the last names were the same. They're the models of consistency.

    There is a lot of talent on the floor for New York, but they don't fit together or with coach Mike D'Antoni. Also, Tyson Chandler isn't going to be the center the Knicks are hoping for. He has averaged double-digit points just twice in his 10-year career, and the same goes for rebounds.

    Boston, with its fresh legs and centuries of experience, will win this one 90-82.

Miami Heat at Dallas Mavericks

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    In an exciting rematch of last year's NBA Finals, the Miami Heat will travel to the Lone Star State to take on the defending champion Dallas Mavericks.

    The Mavs were the most complete team come playoff time last season, but are they at the beginning of this season? With the losses of Tyson Chandler, Caron Butler and J.J. Barera, Dallas is missing several key components that glued them together last year.

    Granted, owner Mark Cuban has done a good job finding pieces like Vince Carter and Lamar Odom to replace those veterans, but they'll have to get in sync quickly with the shortened season.

    The Heat, on the other hand, have a full season of torment, near euphoria and ultimate disappointment under their belts now. When they "struggled" at the beginning of last season, I remember the "experts" were claiming they needed a "truer" center (sorry for all the quotation marks).

    False. LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh are plenty good enough. They learned on the go last year and should be feared as a top three team in the NBA.

    The Heat will take this one 101-95.

Chicago Bulls at Los Angeles Lakers

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    By 5:00 eastern time, you'll be in need of a good stretch and possibly a refill on your eggnog. The NFL games that you've been waffling back and forth on will be nearly over and you'll be hoping there's good NBA games to fill the void in your sports life.

    Toss another log on the fire—the Chicago Bull and Los Angeles Lakers are here.

    Reigning MVP Derrick Rose will take his non-stop, fast-paced game to the west coast in a test that every contender must at some point pass: Kobe Bryant and the Lakers. It's a testament to their stranglehold—not necessarily on the NBA or even the Western Conference—but on the game of basketball.

    Bryant might be hindered by a wrist injury, but you just never know with that guy. He's got some Michael Jordan in him, which could mean that he explodes for 50 points shooting with just one hand.

    Both the Bulls and the Lakers return virtually the same starting lineups, though L.A.'s should've been a lot different. Not only do I like Chicago's starting five more than Los Angeles', I like their bench better, too.

    The Bulls will win it 91-87.

Orlando Magic at Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Who said all superstar players want to go to a huge city to work? A native of Tennessee, I've never understood that sentiment, but to each his own.

    I know one player who agrees with me—Kevin Durant. He has found a home in the heartland and has made the Oklahoma City Thunder a championship threat.

    His point guard, Russell Westbrook, blossomed last year into to one of the best in the league. If his shooting improves this year, they'll be one of the best twosomes in the NBA (as if they aren't now). Center Kendrick Perkins deserves more airtime for what he's going to do this upcoming season.

    And when you get to play a scorer like James Harden off the bench, you know you're good.

    Meanwhile, the Orlando Magic are dealing with keeping hold of their own superstar in Dwight Howard. If they can, they'll have one of the better teams in the East. On Christmas Day, though, the key player for Orlando will be small forward Hedo Turkoglu. Turkoglu has to produce on offense while doing his best to limit Durant.

    Not gonna happen. Thunder rumble to a 115-98 win.

Los Angeles Clippers at Golden State Warriors

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    A day full of joy, hate, love and contempt (basically, a day full of family) will end with a great game between the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors. Who thought I'd ever be able to say that?

    At first, I thought the Clippers were getting hosed in the Chris Paul trade, but it's grown on me very quickly. Playing Chauncey Billups at shooting guard gives you two great passers on the floor, and Billups is a capable shooter from three. I need not add anything more about Blake Griffin. It has all been said.

    I'm a fan of Los Angeles' instate brethren, the Golden State Warriors. They can score like crazy, and I believe their defense will improve under new head coach Mark Jackson. Guards Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis are excellent thieves of the basketball, and center David Lee will rip down 10 boards per game.

    But I'm worried about Curry's ankle on Christmas Night. His ankles are injury prone, and once you turn them a couple times, they get easier and easier to sprain (speaking from experience). That injury will linger throughout the season, I'm afraid, starting on December 25th.

    Even with a healthy Curry, I like the Clippers in a shootout 119-110.