Christmas is the best holiday around (and my second favorite day of the year) for a multitude of reasons. It’s winter time, maybe snow, presents, Christmas lights, and the overall feel of the Christmas season is hard to top. Oh, and we get a five-game slate of NBA basketball every time. It’s 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. (PST) of marquee NBA matchups.
The NBA announced their 2018-2019 schedule, which includes another year of Christmas Day games. You have”
9 a.m. Milwaukee Bucks at the New York Knicks
12 p.m. OKC Thunder at the Houston Rockets
2:30 p.m. Philadelphia 76ers at the Boston Celtics
5 p.m. LA Lakers at the Golden State Warriors
7:30 p.m. Portland Trailblazers at the Utah Jazz
Christmas to the NBA is like Thanksgiving to the NFL. And one thing to take away is that the large markets will always make it, no matter how bad they are. The Knicks and Lakers didn’t make playoffs last year and hadn’t for years, but keep making it onto Christmas Day.
This just shows just how strong their brands are. However, the difference is that the Los Angeles Lakers are the legacy franchise of the NBA and arguably the most prestigious one, who have an exciting young core and LeBron James. While the New York Knicks have been perceived as a joke of an NBA team because of a terrible owner, and are perennial losers. Not to mention, they haven’t won a title since the early 1970’s.
Nonetheless, it’s an exciting slate of games with the potential storylines, matchups, and likeliness for excellent games. So let’s rank them regarding intrigue:
Bucks @ Knicks
This one might be a snoozer. The ‘marquee team,’ the Knicks, are a terrible team, while the ‘good team,’ the Bucks, are from a small market that never draws any interest. Even with Giannis Antentokoumpo, the Milwaukee Bucks never turn heads. And they have to play a team many would consider ‘lousy,’ whose main draw, Kristaps Porzingis, is going to miss the game and don’t have much beyond him.
It would have made more sense if the Toronto Raptors, who now have Kawhi Leonard, made it over the Knicks because it would have made for a better matchup. This just proves that it’s hard to find good matchups from the NBA’s Eastern Conference, just like it’s usually very hard to find an intriguing playoff series.
Trailblazers @ Jazz
This one might sneakily win the ‘Best Game of the Day.’ Both teams are exciting and quality teams that have players like Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Donavan Mitchell, and Rudy Gobert. They finished just one game apart, but the Jazz is elevating while Portland isn’t.
But it’s an explosive Portland backcourt vs. a stifling Utah defense. But the Jazz does have some firepower as well. There are athletes all across the board, and the Mitchell vs. Lillard head-to-head alone makes this one worth watching.
Thunder @ Rockets
This is a battle of two teams that will be battling for the right to be the second-best team in the Western Conference. There will be stars and superstars all-around with James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony (who’s washed but still has the name). Not to mention, two of OKC’s original Big 3 (Harden and Westbrook) will be going head-to-head with each other, and Melo will be facing up against his team from last year.
There should be fireworks and drama. If the past is any indicator, it should be tight and high-scoring. They split the season series 2-2 last year, and the season before, they played close and competitive as well.
Lakers @ Warriors
This one has the best chance of being a blowout but, at the same time, could be the most exciting if all goes as planned. It’s LeBron vs. Warriors. That still has the luster. His past two Finals saw him lose eight of nine games to the Golden State, but he has kept his team in the games and should have won at least two games during this year’s finals if not for J.R. Smith’s egregious mistake and the lack of adequate support surrounding him.
This Lakers’ team is young, but the young core plus the veterans they have added give James a better team than last year’s Cavs. And it’s not just LeBron vs. Warriors, but it’s LeBron’s Lakers vs. the Warriors. Not the Cavs, but the Los Angeles Lakers.
And these young Lakers have always given the Warriors fits. They almost beat them twice in two overtime games last season, and almost came back from a 25+ point lead at Oracle. And in the two seasons prior, they blew out the Warriors by over 20 points twice.
They’re young, hungry, fearless, and playing with house money. That’s a dangerous combination when they are talented and add LeBron James, a player who can get you a game vs. any team in the NBA by himself. Expect LeBron’s A-game, and the young guys to show up to make it competitive.
76ers @ Celtics
This is most likely a preview of the 2019 NBA Eastern Conference Finals. These are the two most exciting teams in the conference, and two of the four best teams in the NBA from two relatively big cities. There’s so much talent available in Ben Simmons, Kyrie Irving, Joel Embiid, Jayson Tatum, Gordon Hayward, Jaylen Brown, and who knows, maybe Markelle Fultz will start to live up to his talent.
Boston won 4-1 in the playoffs last year, but three of Boston’s wins were by two points, three points, and five points (albeit without Irving and Hayward). It was more competitive than you’d think, and Simmons and Embiid are generational talents who are only getting better. And Embiid is the best player from both squads. There’s a reason this is the 2 p.m. game on ABC.