The NBA Christmas Day schedule has arrived.
Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans will take on Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat to start the day off. Stephen Curry and the Warriors will take on Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks. Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and the Nets will travel to Boston to take on Jayson Tatum and the Celtics. The defending champion Lakers will play Luka Doncic and the Mavs. The last game of the night will be the Clippers and Nuggets. The Crossover staff breaks down the best games to watch.
Nets vs. Celtics: I define “best game” as “best combination of enjoyable matchup and potential drama,” and so my choice is Nets-Celtics. Kyrie Irving against Boston, Kevin Durant on national TV after returning from his Achilles injury, Jayson Tatum trying to one-up Durant, two teams that have every reason to believe they can win the East … it should be fun and could be tense, and could be a preview of a great series next spring.
Mavericks vs. Lakers: Sign me up for every LeBron-Luka matchup we get from here on out. I think the mutual respect there has continued growing, and it’s a game that will feel important to both guys. If you only watch one game on Christmas, this is the one.
Celtics vs. Nets: Perhaps it would be a bit more fun if this game were in front of fans, but the Celtics’ matchup with the Nets remains a thrilling Christmas Day contest. There’s no love lost between Boston and Kyrie Irving, and we could see a scoring duel between Kevin Durant and Jayson Tatum. Frankly any game involving Brooklyn would likely get the nod here. I’m fascinated to see how this experiment works, with or without James Harden in tow. All five Christmas matchups bring legitimate intrigue, but the battle of Eastern Conference contenders is likely the most interesting.
Nets vs. Celtics: The Nets enter the 2020-21 NBA season as one of the most compelling teams in the entire league. With Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving playing their first season together and a first-time head coach Steve Nash on the sideline, they’ll be a worthwhile watch night in and night out. It’s also hard to forget that it was just over two years ago that Irving said he wanted to stay with the Celtics for years to come. Boston’s franchise has drastically changed since then as Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are among the league’s best budding stars with Kemba Walker taking over Irving’s role as the C’s lead ball-handler. Gordon Hayward’s departure to Charlotte this offseason officially marked the end of the short-lived Irving-Hayward era in Boston (even though it was very brief because of injuries and the sudden ascension of Tatum and Brown). Boston could be a legitimate NBA finals contender, and its Christmas Day matchup with the Nets will provide a good early-season look at how the conference might play out months down the road.
Celtics vs. Nets: Kyrie Irving missed the Nets’ matchups against the Celtics last season, so both sides have plenty of motivation entering 2020-21. Boston fans will miss out on the chance to heckle Irving more than they did when the Nets visited a year ago, but the talent will be sure to take the spotlight. Irving and Kevin Durant against Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown will be a fun watch and is fit to be highlighted on the NBA’s Christmas Day slate.
Clippers vs. Nuggets: With a pair of six-year-olds in a West Coast setting, I kind of have to pick the last game of the day by default, as the previous 10 hours are going to be spent assembling toys, cleaning up wrapping paper and consoling children disappointed by the fact that Santa Claus did not deliver the time machine they asked for so they could go back in time and get a pet dinosaur. (Why not just ask for a dinosaur and cut out the middle man? I don’t know.) But at least the game is going to be a good one. We get to see Nikola Jokic distributing passes like Santa handing out gifts, and we’ll find out if Jamal Murray’s bubble form will carry over into the regular season. The Clippers are going to come into this feeling like they’ve got something to prove, given their second-round loss to Denver, and you know new coach Ty Lue is going to see this as a chance to make an early statement.
Mavericks vs. Lakers: I doubt it will be the best game but Lakers-Mavs is the most compelling matchup, for one reason… Luka vs LeBron. To be honest, I was a little surprised when I saw it on the schedule, but it makes sense, as it seems the NBA is realizing Doncic may be the best bet to take over as face of the league whenever James is finally done his reign. Another thing I find interesting about that is there is clearly a lot of LeBron influence in Luka’s game. And right now that is probably the best individual showdown the NBA has to offer, even if it doesn’t necessarily lead to the most compelling contest teamwise.