NBA fans have been waiting months for a Finals rematch between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, and the league's Christmas Day slate marks the first time hoop heads will be afforded the chance to sit down and treat themselves to a showdown between two of the league's marquee franchises.
But beyond the obvious plot lines enveloping the Warriors and Cavaliers, there's plenty to be excited for as holiday action gets slated to tip off.
With more than 12 hours of basketball on the Christmas Day schedule, here's a rundown of when and where fans can catch all the action.
|2015 NBA Christmas Day Viewing Guide|
|Time (ET)||Matchup||TV||Live Stream|
|12 p.m.||New Orleans Pelicans at Miami Heat||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|2:30 p.m.||Chicago Bulls at Oklahoma City Thunder||ABC||WatchESPN|
|5 p.m.||Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden State Warriors||ABC||WatchESPN|
|8 p.m.||San Antonio Spurs at Houston Rockets||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|10:30 p.m.||Los Angeles Clippers at Los Angeles Lakers||ESPN||WatchESPN|
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The New Orleans Pelicans and Miami Heat get the day started in style in South Beach in what figures to be one of the most uneven matchups of the day. While the Heat rank among the league's most disciplined defenses, New Orleans is operating as the caboose in the efficiency department on that end.
And since both sides have offenses that rank above the league average in terms of a point-per-possession output, this one could wind up tilting in Miami's favor so long as the defense holds up its end of the bargain.
"Miami’s blueprint for controlling pick-and-roll sets has improved substantially," the Washington Post's Josh Planos wrote. "Bringing Bosh—a 6'11" power forward with a 7-foot-plus wingspan—back into the fold to pair with Hassan Whiteside, a burgeoning 7-footer who swallows shots, has been suffocating for opposing offenses."
As if the Heat needed any more factors working in their favor, they've won six in a row on Christmas and are 9-2 all-time on the holiday stage, according to the Sun-Sentinel's Ira Winderman.
Once the Heat and Pelicans wrap up, the sputtering Chicago Bulls and scorching Oklahoma City Thunder will hit the hardwood at Chesapeake Energy Arena in a fairly uneven showdown. Though the Bulls ranked third in defensive efficiency entering Wednesday night, their offense has consistently ranked among the league's five worst.
That's a problem, namely because the Thunder are scoring better than every team not named the Warriors. Factor in an Oklahoma City defense that's locked down to the tune of a top-10 efficiency rating, and things could get ugly.
On their second three-game losing streak this month, the Bulls should be prepared for an uphill battle.
Then there's the main event.
The Warriors and Cavaliers don't require much in the way of introductions since their bodies of work are widely celebrated, but it will be undeniably fascinating to see how the two match up now that Cleveland has its full complement of superstars available.
While last season's championship showdown was a thrill ride for both sides, the Cavaliers had to do battle without Kevin Love and (for the most part) Kyrie Irving before bowing out in six games.
Now it's on Cleveland to prove it can down the defending champions and pose a real threat should the two meet with the Larry O'Brien Trophy on the line again.
The evening will close out with a pair Western Conference showdowns featuring two heavy favorites against a duo of overmatched underdogs.
The San Antonio Spurs will take a crack at the Houston Rockets early before the Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers clash for Staples Center bragging rights.
And while the Warriors have been soaking up attention all season long, the Spurs have quietly gone about their business and nearly kept pace with the defending champs.
"We are the Spurs,” Manu Ginobili said, per the Washington Post's Tim Bontemps. "We don’t get the national attention. We don’t demand that attention. We don’t ask for that attention."
In a couple of intrastate duels, look for the Spurs and Clippers to impose their wills in impressive displays of force as the day's action winds down.
Stats courtesy of NBA.com and current as of Wednesday, Dec. 23 unless noted otherwise.