It’s Christmas Eve, which means we’re only a day away from five star-studded games on ESPN, ABC, and the ESPN app.
Two LA showdowns heading tonight slate, with LeBron James and the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers host MVP candidate Luka Doncic and Dallas Mavericks and Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and LA Clippers meet Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and Denver Nuggets after the Clippers’ shocking playoff collapse against Denver in the Florida bubble.
Here’s what you need to know about the five game party:
Again, the NBA is with Zion Williamson in one of its shop windows.
His debut match in the summer league in July 2019 drew a number of fans around the building, even though Williamson only played eight minutes. The league tried to highlight Williamson last season both opening night and Christmas Day, but he was ruled out until January due to an injury suffered in the preseason. The Pelicans were also picked to start the bubble on national television, but again Williamson was only able to play 15 minutes.
Finally, Williamson gets his chance to be a big presence on NBA tent day with the newly colored max contract star Brandon Ingram.
On the Miami side, the coffee-loving bubble-lovers and reigning Eastern Conference champions are at the center after signing Bam Adebayo to an extension at max level. The heat also added Moe Harkless and Avery Bradley and drafted Memphis’ Precious Achiuwa.
And of course, everyone could use a dose Jimmy Butler on Christmas day.
– Andrew Lopez
Jingle bells. Jingle bells. Giannis runs the course. Oh, what fun it’s to see Steph Curry make it rain.
This Bucks-Warriors showdown matters to a holiday classic. Both teams have something to prove after disappointing finishes for the 2019-20 season. Golden State missed the record season for the first time since 2011-12, and the Bucks endured a disappointing exit from the second round. Both groups will quickly find chemistry with new lineups.
“I’m not sure there’s a more underrated guy in the NBA,” Bucks said Pat Connaughton said about vacation. “I think if you pair him with Khris [Middleton] and Giannis, it’s a big deal, and I’m not sure many people have really explained how big a deal there is, but that’s what we like. “
For Golden State, the impact of losing Klay Thompson for another season in a row after tearing his Achilles will be huge, but the current lineup has a healthy Curry backed by Andrew WigginsNr. 2 total choices James Wiseman and wing capture Kelly Oubre Jr..
– Eric Woodyard
Just two years ago, Irving stood inside Boston’s TD Garden and announced that he hoped to stay with the franchise for years. He was gone after that season. Now after shows his new pregame ritual in Boston, Irving makes his long awaited regular season return to the building in a Christmas duel. After missing both games in Boston last season due to injury, he once again does not have to deal with booing fans.
This game also provides a Christmas Day phase for the IrvingKevin Durant pairing against a talented Celtics team that thinks it can take the East. Young Celtics stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown will look to show how much their respective games have evolved since Irving traveled to Brooklyn.
If opening night was an indication, Christmas Day should provide yet another warning to the rest of the league about how talented the nets can be when their stars are on the floor and creating opportunities for teammates.
– Nick Friedell
In November 2018 Luka Doncic seamlessly lingering outside the Lakers’ locker room in the Staples Center so a security guard could give him an autographed uniform from his childhood hero, LeBron James. Now Doncic will try to give James a loss on Christmas Day.
The NBA’s pitting the Mavericks against defending champion Lakers on a tent day on the league calendar speaks to Doncic’s rapid rise. As compelling as it would be to see the Lakers take part in a final rematch with the Heat or meet the former champion Warriors or add another chapter to the growing Lakers-Clippers intrigue, the NBA has always been about its star system and there is nothing today’s match that can compete with LeBron vs. Luke.
In Doncic, Dallas has a star that many around the league predict to win more MVPs and rings. In James, the Lakers have someone helping bring the franchise back to its former glory as he strives to add more MVPs and call his resume (he has four of each).
The NBA’s selection of this Christmas Day pairing also shows the crucial place where the league is located. James is its face, but he is almost 36 years old and is entering his 18th season, and his contemporaries have either retired or switched to role players. The stars half a generation behind come out injured (Curry, Durant and Irving), have not yet won championships to validate their status (Antetokounmpo, James Harden, Damian Lillard, Russell Westbrook, Joel Embiid and Butler) or have no charisma or interest in imitating James’ star status (Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis).
Add to that the injury problems that Zion Williamson had in his rookie season, and the pitch has been cleared for 21-year-old Doncic to carry the torch for years that James was reckoned with from an early age.
– Dave McMenamin
Just over three months after the Clippers’ embarrassing 3-1 collapse in the second round of the playoffs, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George & Co. faces the Nuggets again – and Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic will try to play spoiler again.
Much has changed since the two teams faced each other. In LA, head coach Doc Rivers and reigning is the sixth man of the year Montrezl Harrell is gone. Clippers knocks on new coach Ty Lue and a modernized staff to unlock chemistry. They also need the signature of a free agent Serge Ibaka to play better defense against Jokic than Harrell did.
Formerly Clipper JaMychal Green will be on the Nuggets ‘side after signing with Denver in free agency and delivering a blow to the Clippers’ rotation. Nuggets need Green to compensate for the loss of Jerami Grantwho signed with Detroit Pistons after his breakout post season.
Still, this budding rivalry should come down to the main characters, as it did in the playoffs. Murray and Jokic are playing in the NBA’s showcase Christmas phase and want to take the next step after their race to the final of the Western Conference in the bubble. They hope to show it to a national audience the is the Lakers’ main competition in the Western Conference.
– Ohm Youngmisuk