The NBA Christmas Day slate of games on Sunday will not disappoint. Starting at noon EST with the Philadelphia 76ers vs. New York Knicks, there will be five games, ending with the Phoenix Suns vs. Denver Nuggets.
There will be stars galore, including LeBron James, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, Jayson Tatum, James Harden, and more. All of them used to playing on the big stage and showing out on Christmas.
Let’s take a look at each matchup and a standout Christmas Day performer.
Philadelphia 76ers vs. New York Knicks
Both teams are playing excellent basketball and are chasing the Boston Celtics at the top of the division. If you like defense, this game is for you. The Knicks are seventh in aDRTG and the 76ers are third.
The star power leans heavy on the 76ers side with Joel Embiid and James Harden. But Derrick Rose is on the Knicks roster and in his prime he had a great game in 2011 as a member of the Chicago Bulls against the Los Angeles Lakers, including the game-winner.
It’s tough to choose between Embiid and Harden but we’re going to go with Harden on this one. Last season, as a member of the Brooklyn Nets, Harden became only the second player ever to record a 30 point triple double on Christmas. He finished with 36 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists in a win over the Los Angeles Lakers.
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Dallas Mavericks
The Lakers will be without Anthony Davis and can’t seem to generate consistency this season. They are 24th in aNET rating and 25th in aORTG.
The Mavericks have struggled a bit after starting the season well. They’re .500 but their metrics are good. 11th in aNET rating, ninth in aORTG, and 11th in aDRTG.
LeBron James and Luka Doncic are the stars in this one.
This is a bit unfair to Doncic as Bron has basically played on Christmas Day since he entered the league, so we have more to chose from.
In his second season with the Miami Heat, the Christmas game was a rematch of the 2011 NBA Finals where the Heat lost to the Dallas Mavericks. The Heat won this time around and LeBron scored 37 points, had 10 rebounds, and six assists.
Milwaukee Bucks vs. Boston Celtics
A rematch of last year’s Christmas matchup and a possible preview of this season’s Eastern Conference finals. These are the teams with the best records in the NBA so far.
The Celtics rank first in aORTG and ninth in aDRTG. The Bucks do it mostly on defense right now, they rank second in aDRTG.
Both teams are getting players back from injury and will want to show out on Sunday.
Last season in a win over these same Celtics on Christmas, Giannis finished with 36 points, 12 rebounds, and five assists.
Memphis Grizzlies vs. Golden State Warriors
The Warriors are a staple on Christmas, while this is the Grizzlies franchise’s first Christmas game.
Two-time MVP Stephen Curry will not be playing in this game as he recovers from a shoulder injury. This is a rematch from last season’s conference semifinal round, where the Warriors won in six on the way to their fourth title in the past eight seasons.
That series was chippy and contentious. Classic young bull coming at the old stud stuff.
Grizzlies superstar Ja Morant missed the final three games of that series with an injury. Dillon Brooks committed a flagrant foul and was ejected and suspended for a game. There was trash talk this offseason as well.
Despite Curry being out and the Warriors flailing, this game will have some intensity.
“[It pisses me off] a little bit. I hope [Curry] plays, though,” Brooks said of Curry missing the matchup as he recovers from a shoulder injury. “But I got Klay [Thompson]. I like that matchup a little better because he was talking a little smack before when we lost.”
No Steph and none of the Grizzlies have played on Christmas. But Klay Thompson has been hearing people talk bad about him. He’s a four-time champion and one of the greatest shooters ever. He’s more than capable of showing out.
Phoenix Suns vs. Denver Nuggets
The Suns have been wobbly this year. Starting over the summer with the DeAndre Ayton contract, Jae Crowder trade request, the injuries to Cam Thomas and Chris Paul, the argument between head coach Monty Williams and Ayton. The vibes are off, but they are fourth in aNET rating.
The Nuggets are hammering teams offensively but cannot defend at all. Two-time reigning MVP Nikola Jokic is still playing at that level and better. Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. are working themselves back into NBA game shape. Both missed all or most of last season.
Between Devin Booker, Chris Paul, Jokic and Jamal Murray, someone from these two teams will deliver during the game.