By: Kento Kato
Tomorrow is Christmas day, which means that basketball fans get to enjoy nationally televised games, all day long. With the first of the five games just about 12 hours away, here are my picks for each game with things to look for.
Boston Celtics (17-13) vs. New York Knicks (16-13) (12:00PM ET- ESPN)
Knicks win 100-106
These two teams have a lot of history between them and have played on Christmas day a few times before. In the only prior meeting between the two teams this year, the Celtics won in Boston, 115-87. That being said, the Celtics come into this one off of a tough loss against Russell Westbrook, while the Knicks are coming off of a pretty comfortable win against a sub-par Magic team. It is also interesting to note that the Knicks were just 3-4 going in to the first meeting, but are currently 16-13 and have been playing better as of late. The Celtics are currently in third place in the east at 17-13, meaning the Knicks can jump to third in the east with a win. The Knicks are 11-4 at home this year, and while the Celtics are 11-7 on the road, I believe the trio of Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis and Derrick Rose will help the Knicks protect their home court.
Golden State Warriors (27-4) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (22-6) (2:30PM ET- ABC)
Warriors win 120-111
This will be the 8th time that the teams from the previous year’s NBA Finals met on Christmas day, but this one is a bit different. The Warriors team is different from the one that the Cavaliers faced last year as they reloaded with Kevin Durant. Both teams have been playing well but the Cavaliers are not playing too differently from the way they played last year, which should help the Warriors. Yes, the Cavaliers are at home, but they will miss the shooting of JR Smith in this one and will lose this one to what should be a hungry and motivated Warriors team.
Chicago Bulls (14-15) vs. San Antonio Spurs (24-6) (5PM ET- ABC)
Spurs win 98-112
I think that this will be the first game of the day to not be close. While it would be ideal for all of the games to be close, it probably won’t happen. I picked this game to be the one that gets a bit out of hand because simply put, the Spurs are a better team, but on top of that, they are at home, and they will probably be motivated after suffering their first road loss of the year to this same Bulls team. After that game, coach Popovich got on his players for not coming out with the right mindset and effort, so I believe that the Spurs will come out and execute very well from the beginning. I do expect Dwyane Wade to have a big game as he is active leading scorer on Christmas Day with 277 points, which ranks him third all-time.
Minnesota Timberwolves (9-20) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (18-12) (8PM ET- ESPN)
Thunder win 95-104
The Thunder lead the series 1-0 this year but are also 4-13 in Christmas Day games. Meanwhile, the young Timberwolves, who started the year atrociously and were looked at as one of, if not, the biggest disappointments this season, will be playing their first Christmas Day game in the franchise’s history. The Wolves have been playing better as of late, going 3-3 in their last 6, after starting 6-17. But the Thunder have Russell Westbrook, who is averaging a triple-double on the season and may be playing his best overall basketball as of late. He has scored over 40 points in three straight, and is coming off of a masterpiece performance against a great defensive team in the Celtics, which saw him shoot 13/25 from the field and 5/7 from three. I see the Thunder taking this one at home against an inexperienced Timberwolves team.
Los Angeles Clippers (22-8) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (11-21)
Clippers win 118-105
The Lakers, who have played in the second most Christmas Day games, will host the other Los Angeles team. The Lakers are still Los Angeles’ team but the Clippers are the ones that have been in the spotlight as of late. They started the season off great and were even ahead of the Warriors at one point. But they have come back down to earth a bit and are looking to get used to life without Blake Griffin again as he will miss some time with yet another knee surgery. The Lakers’ season took a similar route as they exceeded expectations at first and have come down to earth recently. The Clippers are coming off of an unexpected loss to a struggling Mavericks team so I expect them to come out and try to put away the young Lakers team early. I think the Lakers will make a few runs to cut if close, but the Clippers will ultimately pull away pretty easily late.