The best day of NBA basketball has finally arrived. The Association always compiles a stacked slate of games for Christmas Day, and this year’s lineup is no exception. Injuries will undoubtedly spoil what would’ve been intriguing games in some cases, but overall, there are many exciting matchups for fans to enjoy. Unforgettable battles like the back-and-forth affair between the Cavaliers and Warriors in 2015 are rare, but anything can happen on Christmas.
Raptors vs. Celtics
Two of the East’s best will open up the Christmas Day action in Toronto when the Raptors take on the Celtics. This game could have playoff implications with Boston sitting in second in the East and Toronto in fourth. The point guard matchup will be one to watch as Kyle Lowry looks to find his groove after returning from injury and Kemba Walker tries to continue his stellar play for his new team. Expect tough defense and balanced scoring from these two very similar squads.
Prediction: Both teams have played well lately, but the Celtics have too much offensive firepower for Toronto to handle, even at home.
Final Score: Celtics 107, Raptors 101
76ers vs. Bucks
The day’s second game will feature two more Eastern conference heavyweights with the 76ers matching up against the Bucks. Milwaukee sits atop the East, while Philadelphia is in fifth. The Sixers own an impressive 15-2 home record, but the Bucks are 9-1 in their last 10 games. All eyes will be on Joel Embiid as the All-Star center attempts to record his eighth straight 20-point outing and seventh double-double in eight games. On the other side, MVP incumbent Giannis Antetokounmpo and All-Star Khris Middleton will lead a Bucks team that will be without point guard Eric Bledsoe.
Prediction: Giannis will have his way and the Bucks will be able to contain Embiid, Ben Simmons, Al Horford, and Tobias Harris just enough to escape with a road victory.
Final Score: Bucks 110, 76ers 107
Warriors vs. Rockets
A game that would have been a clash between two Western Conference titans will instead pit a legitimate title contender against one of the worst rosters in the NBA. Injuries to Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have decimated Golden State, who will now rely on D’Angelo Russell and Draymond Green to shoulder the scoring load. The Rockets, on the other hand, sit in third in the West thanks to the surprisingly good chemistry between star guards Russell Westbrook and James Harden. While many worried the former MVP’s would clash due to their ball-dominant play styles, the two have complemented each other quite well, taking turns picking apart opposing defenses.
Prediction: The Rockets should easily take down this version of the Warriors and get a little payback for all of those playoff exits they suffered at the hands of Golden State.
Final Score: Rockets 124, Warriors 103
Lakers vs. Clippers
The day’s marquee matchup will go down in Staples Center as two of the West’s best battle for the city of Los Angeles. However, injuries to star Lakers Anthony Davis and LeBron James could have a major impact on the outcome of this game. James sat out the team’s loss to the Nuggets on Sunday, but he is expected to play on Christmas. Davis hyperextended his knee in that game’s fourth quarter and carries a questionable status into Tuesday. Even if both stars play, they’ll face a formidable foe in the Kawhi Leonard and Paul George-led Clippers. Stopping Leonard and George wouldn’t even be enough for the Lakers to win with stars like Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell coming off the bench.
Prediction: The Clippers beat the Lakers without George in their first game, and they should be able to do it for a second time against a more hobbled version.
Final Score: Clippers 115, Lakers 104
Nuggets vs. Pelicans
The slate’s nightcap features another matchup that would have been much more intriguing had the basketball gods prevented certain injuries from occurring. But instead, the reeling Pelicans will face Denver without first overall pick, Zion Williamson. New Orleans has won just seven games this season despite adding veterans Derrick Favors and J.J. Reddick and trading for former Lakers wings Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart. Ingram has had a breakout season to the tune of 25.3 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, but has not received much help. The Nuggets, on the other hand, have continued their winning ways and are in second in the West. Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray are still one of the best duos in the league, and the team’s bench is still producing at an elite level.
Prediction: The Nuggets should blow out New Orleans in front of a raucous Christmas home crowd.
Final Score: Nuggets 114, Pelicans 97