The NBA gives the entire league a break on Christmas Eve with no games on the schedule. But the league does have a gift for their fans and the viewing public with five games on Christmas Day, starting at 9 a.m. Pacific time.
Teams have somewhat established their identities for the season as we approach the one third mark of the regular season.
Injuries and scheduling dynamics remain the major factors in handicapping upcoming games with injuries a major factor in determining on-the-court results.
Depth will be the friend of teams enduring injuries and that becomes even more important as the long season drags on.
With holiday wishes to one and all let’s spend the remainder of this week’s column devoted to what many of us will be doing on Christmas Day, with family and friends in front of the TV watching the NBA, which has most of the sporting world’s attention almost to itself as it presents its annual showcase that serves to ignite interest for the coming winter months.
Here are some thoughts on the five games that comprise the Christmas Day quintupleheader.
Boston at New York: The Knicks have started to show progress and improved play this season following several key, and highly criticized, off season moves. Boston has yet to explode this season and at 15-12 enters this week just a game ahead of 14-13 New York.
With Derrick Rose joining Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis the Knicks have a strong trio that should continue to improve as the season wears on. The Knicks are playing to avenge an ugly 115-87 loss at Boston a month and a half ago. NEW YORK.
Golden State at Cleveland: This is their first meeting since Cleveland dethroned Golden State in the NBA Finals last June and they will meet again in three weeks at Golden State. Both teams are off to very strong starts as the Cavaliers enter the week 19-6 and the Warriors 24-4. No doubt the Cleveland fans will trash talk the Warriors throughout the contest and the Warriors will approach this game as a challenge. Golden State might be an underdog for the first time this season.
Cleveland has been underdogs three times already and is just 1-2 both SU and ATS in that role. Defense may ultimately decide this game. Whereas most fans might normally expect a high scoring contest the Warriors had played 7 straight UNDERS through last Sunday and the Cavs have been 3-3 in their last half dozen. UNDER.
Chicago at San Antonio: The Spurs are in top form after winning 4 straight and 8 of 9 through Sunday. Only the Warriors have a better record than San Antonio’s 22-5. Chicago started the season very well, surprising many, but the Bulls have struggled lately. Heading into Monday the Bulls had lost 3 straight and 6 of 8.
Three of the losses were at home and they ended last week with double digit losses on back to back nights to Milwaukee. The Spurs are all business and will be, er, spurred on by their strong home crowd. The Spurs are also seeking to avenge one of the Bulls two wins in that recent stretch, losing at Chicago 95-91 on December 8. SAN ANTONIO.
Minnesota at OKC: Minnesota has been one of the NBA’s biggest disappointments in the early season. With a Season Wins Total of 41.5 and projected to contend for the Playoffs, the Timberwolves started this week just 7-19. Only Dallas, and by just a half game, has a worse record in the West. Oklahoma City has dropped 3 of 5 following a 6 game winning streak but at 16-11 are playing well overall. Back in early November the Thunder routed Minnesota 112-92 on this court.
OKC’s Russell Westbrook is having an NBA-type season and will garner votes due to the departure of Kevin Durant which has placed additional pressure on Westbrook to keep OKC relevant in the deep Western Conference. Minnesota has much young talent still in the development phase. But this deep into the season has produced few signs of progress. OKLAHOMA CITY.
LA Clippers at LA Lakers: The Staples Center’s co-tenants meet for the first time this season. The Lakers’ early season success was a major surprise and was largely attributed to the changes brought about by new coach Luke Walton. The early results exceeded what could have been expected of the talent on the roster. The Lakers were 10-10 at the end of November but had lost 9 of 10 through Sunday, covering just twice.
The Clippers also got off to a strong 14-2 start. After a brief slump that saw the Clippers lose 5 of 7 their form was regained with a 4 game winning streak that ended with a loss in Washington last Sunday. But the Clippers are also in a pointspread funk, going 1-6 ATS in their last 7 and are just 4-13 ATS since mid-November. With the familiar court and both teams rested we could see the long day of basketball capped with an up tempo, entertaining contest. OVER.