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The Lead’s Christmas Day Preview – 2017

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The NBA is my favorite thing about Christmas Day and has been for years. Don’t get me wrong, I love being around my family for the holidays; exchanging gifts, eating food, drinking merrily, and all that good stuff. But as much as I love my family, I’ll always love basketball more. It is what it is. Nothing beats sitting on the couch all day and watching five marquee, nationally-televised games. Not for me, anyway.

I’ll be tweeting throughout the day as I watch the games, feel free to interact with me on twitter ( @Dubey23) if you will be too!

Even if you aren’t as hoops-crazy as me, there’s still plenty of Christmas Joy to be found around the NBA today. Without further ado, let’s take a look at the matchups…

Philadelphia 76ers (14-18) at New York Knicks (17-15)- 11:00 AM CT, ESPN

Christmas Day at Madison Square Garden has become a beloved tradition for Knicks fans, despite not much team success. This season, however, New York will enter the holiday a game above .500 (17-15) for the second year in a row. The 76ers have had their bright spots in 2017, and #TrustTheProcess is very much alive and well; but at 14-18, nobody in Philadelphia is content with where they’re at.

After missing games recently due to injury, Kristaps Porzingis will play. Joel Embiid is questionable after undergoing treatment for a back aggravation today. Even if Embiid doesn’t play, we’ll get to see two of the most talented young superstars in the game. The 7’3” Porzingis is averaging a career-best 24.7 points per game in his first season as the featured scorer for the Knicks. Ben Simmons is still running away with rookie of the year for the Sixers, averaging an impressive 17.1 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 7.7 assists per game.

Cleveland Cavaliers (24-9) at Golden State Warriors (26-7)- 2:00 PM CT, ABC

After their third straight Finals rematch, it’s only fitting that the NBA schedule a third straight Christmas Day matchup as well. Cleveland heads west, after hosting last Christmas, with a 24-9 record. After starting the season poorly, the Cavs ran off a 13-game win streak, and enter this matchup having won 8 of their last 10.

Golden State comes into this game at 26-7 and having won 9 of their last 10. The 7 losses are the most the Warriors have had in any of these Christmas Day matchups against the Cavs. Last season they were 27-4 before losing in Cleveland. The year before that Golden State entered Christmas at a staggering 27-1, after winning their first 24 games of the season, and before going on to finish an NBA record-best 73-9.

There were rumors that Isaiah Thomas might try and target this game for his return, but that has proven to be false. Thomas will not suit up, nor will Derrick Rose. The Warriors will be without Steph Curry, but Draymond Green is expected to play. Kevin Durant will look to continue his recent tear, averaging 30.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 5.9 assists and a ridiculous 2.9 blocks per over his last seven games, even with being held to a season-low 18 points in Saturday’s loss to Denver.

Washington Wizards (18-15) at Boston Celtics (27-9)- 4:30 PM CT, ABC

The Cavs and Warriors don’t much like each other, but they respect each other. These two teams, the Celtics, and the Wizards don’t care for one another and each wants to destroy the other. Even with some of the premier players of this rivalry gone for Boston, the significance of the matchup remains. These two teams are very much fighting for a shot at the crown in the East, and every time they meet – expect some fireworks.

Boston enters this game on top of the standings, an impressive 27-9, despite losing their prized free agent acquisition on opening day. Without Hayward, Kyrie Irving and Al Horford have stepped up their game on both sides of the floor. No doubt the Celtics wouldn’t be where they’re at without those two, or the incredible poise of their young guns – Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.

Washington has struggled over the first half of the season, as has become the norm in recent years. At 18-15, they desperately need to start making a push to join the top 3 teams, who currently enjoy a sizable 5.0+ game lead over the rest of the East. John Wall has missed time this season, but is healthy and looking to rebound from back-to-back quiet games on his end. This is the first game the Wizards will play on Christmas since beating the Knicks at MSG back in 2014.

Houston Rockets (25-6) at Oklahoma City Thunder (18-15)- 7:00 PM CT, ABC

After being the best team in the league over the first couple months of the season, Houston enters Christmas on a two-game losing streak – even though Harden scored 51 points in each of those games. They were, however, without both Chris Paul and Clint Capela, Houston’s most valuable players who don’t have beards. Both players are listed as questionable to play tomorrow. The Rockets (25-6) still retain the top spot in the Western Conference standings, barely leading the Warriors by one-game in the loss column.

Oklahoma City comes in at 18-15, having won their last four straight. The Thunder have been one of the most scrutinized teams in the league so far this season, primarily because of the polarizing nature of their three stars. In spite of the criticism, Russ, PG, and Melo appear to be progressing, slowly, towards some sort of workable chemistry. They’ve gotten up for the big games on their schedule so far this season, and have another opportunity to do that this Christmas.

Minnesota Timberwolves (20-13) at Los Angeles Lakers (11-20)- 9:30 PM CT, TNT

The 2017-18 Minnesota Timberwolves are experiencing the type of resurgence that the 2018-19 Los Angeles Lakers will be hoping for. After a few rough years developing their young core, the T’Wolves went out and brought in the veteran support necessary to truly turn this team around. Jimmy Butler has been invaluable for Minnesota and has helped lead them to a 20-13 record, thus far.

The Lakers entered this season with playoff hopes, but have struggled to close games early on and currently sit at 11-20. Still, the Lakers have a ton to be optimistic about even if the playoffs aren’t realistic this year. Lonzo Ball has had his much talked about ups and downs, and Kyle Kuzma is every bit as good as the hype. Unfortunately, Christmas Eve brought bad news for LA, as Lonzo has been ruled out for the contest with a minor shoulder injury. Look for Jordan Clarkson to pick up the bulk of the minutes at point guard.

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About Preston Dubey

Lifelong basketball fanatic and Bucks' supporter I coach basketball; but I eat, sleep, and breathe the game.

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