It’s Christmastime in the National Basketball League, which only means one thing: The greatest gift of all – five NBA games in a row on national television! Normally, these games are coming with a good chunk of the season under our belts, but it almost feels like this year, the Christmas gift is the season itself.
So let’s all spend the entire day on the couch, drinking the spiked egg nog that’s about to expire and enjoying some of the finest holiday games that the NBA has to offer.
New Orleans Pelicans vs. Miami Heat – 12:00 PM
The reigning Eastern Conference Champions face-off against Zion Williamson and the newly rebuilt New Orleans Pelicans in the first game of the day. The Heat are coming off a tough loss to their Floridian neighbors, the Orlando Magic, 113-107 on the opening night of the season. The Pelicans opener against Toronto went a lot smoother, as they coasted to a 114-99 victory against the Raptors.
Brandon Ingram, the 2019-20 Most Improved Player, picked up where he left off, leading the Pelicans with 24 points, and falling just one board away from a triple-double. The Pelicans second-leading scorer was the ageless wonder JJ Reddick, who went off for 23 points.
The questions surrounding how the team would gel after their busy offseason seem to already be subsiding. Eric Bledsoe‘s presence helped Lonzo Ball step up his game, and Steven Adams had 8 points and 8 rebounds in his 31 minutes on the floor. The Pelicans, should they continue to find their rhythm, could be a major contender in the very competitive West.
The Heat might have been suffering from an NBA Finals hangover, as they came out somewhat sluggish in their first game. Turnovers were the biggest issue for the Heat, as they handed the ball to Orlando 22 times, good enough for third in the league. Bam Adebayo, who was the runner up to Ingram for Most Improved player last season, was very much in the same groove, as was Jimmy Butler. It was the rest of the squad that was dragging.
This matchup against the Pelicans affords them a chance to tighten up, especially since the Pelicans turned over the ball 27 times in their first game. If the Heat can center themselves and play as a team, they may be able to exploit the Pelicans’ limited time playing together and get a Christmas W. If not, things might not feel so sunny in Miami.
Golden State Warriors vs. Milwaukee Bucks – 2:30 PM EST
In what feels like a game that would have been billed as “The NBA Finals Preview” if Klay Thompson hadn’t reinjured himself in the offseason, this game will more than likely disappoint. The Warriors’ opening matchup against the Brooklyn Nets was about as disappointing as you’d expect. Dropping your season opener to a team led by your former teammate is tough, but to lose by 26 is something else.
Andrew Wiggins was irrelevant in his 31 minutes of play, putting up 13 points, 2 rebounds, and 1 assist, all while shooting 25% from the floor. That’s terrible. While losing Klay for a second season is a tough break, the Warriors haven’t been able to figure out a different option for their 2-guard. Kelly Oubre Jr. showed up but didn’t exactly ball out. It’s going to be another rough year for the Warriors if they can’t figure how to win without Klay.
The Bucks are also coming off a disappointing season in 2019-20, but have reshaped their franchise for the future. Their star is sticking around, as Giannis Antetokounmpo inked a five-year supermax extension worth $228.2 million. The Bucks also shipped Eric Bledsoe to New Orleans in exchange for Jrue Holiday, upgrading their point guard situation. Holiday made an instant impact for the Bucks in their first game against the Celtics, shooting 63% from the field and dropping 25 points in his debut.
Giannis was once again as advertised, but the real questions will come towards the end of the season, as the Bucks look to advance out of the first round, and make a push for an NBA title.
In this matchup, there shouldn’t be any questions. The Bucks have all the advantage, and should be looking to make a statement on national TV.
Brooklyn Nets vs. Boston Celtics – 5:00 PM EST
The Celtics and Nets both had statement wins in their first games, but very different paths to victory. The Nets routed the Golden State Warriors as Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant finally took the floor together after a year of anticipation.
The Celtics went toe-to-toe with the Eastern Conference favorite in the Bucks, and Jayson Tatum put the game away with a bank shot three with 0.6 seconds left on the clock. While this might not seem like a big win, the Celtics weren’t very high on a lot of lists, as the team seemed a touch in disarray after a turbulent offseason.
With all of that in mind, there’s really only one big storyline, and that’s Kyrie’s return to the Garden.
Celtic fans are salivating at the idea of seeing Kyrie embarassed on the parquet floor in Boston, but is that too much to ask for this Christmas? Well, the Nets are now very much a threat to the Celtics chances at winning the East, so this will for sure be a statement game for both sides.
Will Kyrie and KD get the coming out party Brooklyn fans have long awaited, or will Celtics fans taste the sweetness of a schadenfreude-filled victory over their newest conference rival?
This is the first game of the day that truly feels like a toss-up, and that’s a good thing.
Dallas Mavericks vs. Los Angeles Lakers – 8:00 PM EST
In yet another “season opening do-over” game, the Lakers welcome the Mavericks to the Staples Center. While their first game didn’t go as expected, the Lakers are still the consensus favorites to win the West.
LeBron and Anthony Davis are still the focal point of the Lake Show, but it was offseason acquisition Dennis Schröder who was the real star in his Lakers debut. It’s often difficult for the reigning NBA Champion to get better in the offseason, and yet the Lakers did just that in trading for Schröder. Look for him, LeBron, and AD to come up big against Dallas.
The sad truth for the Mavericks is that this season might not end as well as last season did. Yes, Luke Doncic is one of the most exciting players in the game right now, but as we saw in their first game, that might just be it for the Mavs. Unless Porzingis can come back and make a direct impact, this Mavs team might take a step back in 2021.
The Lakers have this one on lock, unless Luka can make something happen by himself.
Los Angeles Clippers vs. Denver Nuggets – 10:30 PM EST
After a solid outing against the Lakers, the Clippers will look to get revenge against a Nuggets team that embarrassed them in the NBA Playoffs last year.
The Clippers still have some kinks to work out under new head coach Ty Lue, but the majority of the team from last year remains intact. Perhaps this time Kawhi and Paul George can hold off Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray. However, that really depends on the fire the Nuggets play with in this late night matchup.
The Nuggets got outworked by the Sacramento Kings in their season opener, and there’s no one to blame but themselves. In the last two minutes of overtime, the Nuggets just didn’t play smart basketball and the Kings took advantage. If they come in with a chip on their shoulder, we might see the team from last summer’s bubble. If they don’t, we might just see a Nuggets team that’s missing the zest that got them within a few games of winning the Western Conference!
Enjoy the Games!
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