What to Watch for on the NBA Christmas Day Slate

— December 25th 2017

What sticks out from each of the NBA’s five Christmas Day games?

By Dylan Hughes

Welcome to the best day of the year. Not only do we get to spend time with family and open gifts, we get five NBA games!

This year we get five very intriguing games, with every team either currently in the playoffs or on the cusp–and also the Lakers.

There are tons of stars, too, so this year’s Christmas Day slate looks to be a gift in and of itself. What is there specifically to look for in either matchup, however?

Sixers vs. Knicks

Coming in the season, many expected Philadelphia to contend for a playoff spot with their collection of young talent and veterans, while New York rebuilt around Kristaps Porzingis. Despite Philly’s hot start, it’s the Knicks with a playoff seat while the Sixers are a few games back.

As good as pseudo-rookie Ben Simmons has been, the key to Philly reaching its ceiling is Joel Embiid. Embiid staying on the court in the early part of the season is why the Sixers were one of the East’s best eight teams, but as his DNPs rack up, so do the Sixers’ losses. Embiid has missed five of Philadelphia’s last eight games; they lost all of the games he missed.

The Sixers are 1-9 in their last 10 games and have lost five straight.

New York has done much better in their last 10, winning six games. Porzingis has missed four games in the month of December, but when he has been on the floor, he has been magnificent. He is averaging a career-high 24.7 points this season and should be a fun matchup against the likes of Simmons and Embiid.

Cavaliers vs. Warriors

Even after three-straight Finals matchups, these games are always fun with two healthy rosters going at it. Problem is, neither of these teams are at full health. Stephen Curry will continue to sit with his ankle injury, and Isaiah Thomas is still not ready to make his season debut (hip)–though that day will be here soon.

LeBron James vs. Kevin Durant is always a fascinating matchup, however, and the two are playing at an MVP-level right now. Maybe LeBron will try to get Durant back for nailing this shot over him in June.

Wizards vs. Celtics

The NBA is absent of a great, brutal rivalry. Boston-Washington may be the closest thing we’ve got.

Remember last year, when the Wizards’ players came to the Jan. 24 Celtics game dressed in all black–saying they were showing up for a funeral? Remember this Kelly-on-Kelly crime from the postseason?

Boston lost a lot of its grit over the summer when re-shuffling the roster, so perhaps the animosity has faded. But either way, it will be interesting to see if Washington has closed the gap after falling to Boston in seven games in last season’s second round.

Rockets vs. Thunder

This is perhaps the most intriguing game on the slate, even though Chris Paul will probably not play. Houston has the best record in the league (25-6), despite dropping their last two games. Oklahoma City has been disappointing thus far but has won four-straight and may be figuring it out.

Even without Paul, there is a ton of star power on the floor. James Harden is leading the MVP race at this point and will be facing off against reigning MVP Russell Westbrook. The Thunder also have Paul George and Carmelo Anthony–though it’s hard to call Anthony a star at this point.

Both these teams rank top 10 in defensive rating, so it might not be the shootout you’d expect with so many stars on the floor. Harden and Westbrook can overcome even the top defenses in the league, though, so there could still be a lot of points put up in this one.

Timberwolves vs. Lakers

Last year, these two teams were up-and-comers with a ton of budding young talent. Now, with the addition of Jimmy Butler, Minnesota has surpassed the rebuilding stage and is firmly in the playoff race. The Lakers are still coming around.

LA still has a lot of young talent in Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Larry Nance Jr., Julius Randle and Lonzo Ball–who will unfortunately miss this game.

Kuzma has been an excellent rookie, Ingram has taken significant strides since last season and Ball has gotten better as the season has gone on, but it’d be tough to see them overcoming Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. It will be a fun matchup, though, and a good developmental measuring stick for the Lakers.

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