NBA on Christmas Day is a staple each holiday season, gluing eyeballs to televisions as fans watch the league’s best teams throughout the day. There are five games on Christmas, featuring two matchups that include rematches from the 2022 NBA playoffs. The first game of the day features two teams — Knicks and Sixers — that will meet on Christmas Day for a record 13th time.
<u>SIXERS AT KNICKS, NOON</u>
The red-hot Philadelphia 76ers will take a short trip to face the division-rival Knicks at Madison Square Garden to open the holiday slate. The two teams are playing some of their best basketball of the season — with the Sixers winning seven straight games and the Knicks winning eight of their last 10 games.
Although neither team pushes the pace (Knicks rank 20th, Sixers No. 26) that doesn’t mean fans won’t be entertained.
The game will feature the league’s leading scorer Joel Embiid — averaging 33.0 ppg — and his All-Star teammate James Harden — who ranks first in assists with 10.9 per game. Harden has gotten back into rhythm for the Sixers after missing 14 games. A good start from the former Net could scare Knicks fans as they still remember his 61-point masterclass in the Garden when he was a member of the Houston Rockets.
A more improved defensive team with Quentin Grimes and Deuce McBride could pose a challenge to the Sixers’ perimeter players — who will be without Tyrese Maxey due to a foot injury. Julius Randle is playing his best basketball since his All-NBA second-team seasons two years ago as the forward is averaging 22.7 points, 9.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game. Tom Thibodeau’s switch to a nine-man rotation has the Knicks playing good basketball and this matchup will be a litmus test to see how good the team really is.
<u>LAKERS AT MAVERICKS, 2:30 P.M. ET</u>
LeBron James is set to play in his 17th Christmas game, breaking his tie with Kobe Bryant for the most in NBA history. James will be without Anthony Davis when he takes on Luka Doncic at American Airlines Center — a change from the usual home game for the Lakers on Christmas. The Lakers enter the game six games under .500, unable to get any traction due to injuries and a top-heavy lineup that’s screaming for better shooting.
Doncic comes into the game against the best player of this generation looking to be the fitting successor. But more importantly, the Mavs need to win and avoid slipping out of the last play-in spot. Regardless of how the season ends, this matchup will be a star-studded affair with James looking to savor one of his final Christmas Day games and Doncic hoping to outplay his idol.
<u>BUCKS AT CELTICS, 5 P.M. ET</u>
Make sure the kids aren’t blocking the TV for this one.
This 2022 Eastern Conference semifinals rematch features the last two conference champions. The two frontrunners for MVP — Jayson Tatum and Giannis Antetokounmpo — will go head-to-head at TD Garden. The teams carry the best records in the league and will meet each other for the first team this season.
Antetokounmpo and the Bucks will once again have to deal with All-Defensive team paint protector Robert Williams — who suffered a left knee injury in Game 3 of last year’s playoff series between the two teams. The Celtics look to avenge last season’s Christmas loss to the Bucks after the Greek Freak led his team back from a 19-point deficit at home.
<u>GRIZZLIES AT WARRIORS, 8 P.M. ET</u>
This game had potential.
The two teams entered the 2022-23 season with this Christmas matchup circled on their calendars. The Grizzlies defeated the Warriors in a regular season matchup last March — prompting big man Jaren Jackson Jr. to tweet “Strength in Numbers.” The two teams met again in the postseason and the Warriors took care of business in six games. After the Warriors went on to beat the Celtics in the NBA Finals, Klay Thompson reached peak pettiness and went on a rant addressing Jackson Jr.’s tweet.
“There was this one player who tweeted ‘strength in numbers’ after they beat us in the regular season and it pissed me off so much,” Thompson said after the Finals clinching Game 6. “I can’t wait to retweet that thing. Freaking bum.”
Twitter jabs ensued between star Ja Morant and Draymond Green during the offseason. Now fast forward to the future: Stephen Curry is out with a shoulder injury, Thompson still doesn’t look like his old self and the Warriors currently sit near the bottom of the Western Conference. At least fans get a chance to watch the high-flying Morant play in his first Christmas Day game.
<u>SUNS AT NUGGETS, 10:30 P.M. ET</u>
Two-time MVP Nikola Jokic will be in action against Chris Paul and the Suns. Both stars have their teams playing great basketball and fans hope to witness a spectacular performance on a special day. Last week, Devin Booker led his team to a comeback victory over the Pelicans, scoring 58 points on 21-35 shooting from the field. Jokic decimated the lowly Hornets after he recorded Wilt Chamberlain-like numbers. The Joker scored 40 points, grabbed 27 rebounds and dished 10 assists. He also sealed the win for his team with clutch free throws down the stretch. Despite winning MVP, Jokic and the Nuggets didn’t get the call to play on Christmas last season. But the big man’s undeniable ability forced the league not to let that happen two years in a row.