Tree full of all-day NBA gifts

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Happy holidays to everyone and Merry Christmas to those who celebrate that specific holiday.

Fans of the NBA are getting a monumental gift on Christmas Day as the league pretty much has the sports stage to itself and will give fans a quintet of games with the first game tipping off at 9 a.m. PT and likely ending more than 12 hours later.

Rather than look at one game for Friday through Sunday, this week’s column will offer thoughts and recommendations for all five of those games for those who decide rather than venturing out to watch the new Star Wars movie, they’d prefer to be treated to what could be some drama, excitement and even some special effects on the NBA hardwood.

With all teams having Christmas Eve off none of the 10 teams in action are in back-to-back situations, although several will be playing again on Saturday.

Here’s a look at each of the five Christmas Day games.

New Orleans Pelicans at Miami Heat: New Orleans has been one of the season’s biggest disappointments following last season’s success that saw the 45-37 Pelicans cover 4 of 5 games in their opening round loss to ultimate NBA Champion Golden State. Projected to win 48 games this season, New Orleans’ 8-19 start has them on pace for just 25 wins. Only once has New Orleans won more than one game in a row.

After losing LeBron James to Cleveland and Chris Bosh for much of the season to injury, Miami was just 37-45 last season yet were projected to win 47 games this season. At 16-10 they are on pace to slightly exceed that total. The Heat are the better team playing the better basketball and although the price may appear to be steep Miami’s depth, especially with rest, should enable them to extend their margin as the game winds down. MIAMI.

Chicago Bulls at Oklahoma City Thunder: There have been rumblings of discontent in the Chicago locker room with several players expressing displeasure at how new coach Fred Hoiberg is running the team. The Bulls have been slow to gel under their new coach despite starting this week at 15-10. Chicago had lost 5 of 9 and are on a current 3-7 ATS run. Oklahoma State also turned to a former college coach with Florida’s Billy Donovan now running the Kevin Durant/Russell Westbrook show.

The Thunder started the week 18-9 and had won 11 of 14, playing pretty good defense. 11 of those 14 games have stayed UNDER the Total with OKC also holding 11 of those foes under 100 points. When both teams were adjusting to their new coaches Chicago won the earlier meeting 104-98 back on November 5. OKC is in much better current form as they seek to avenge that early season loss. When healthy OKC is a legitimate contender in the West although there remains a huge gap between Golden State, San Antonio and the rest of the West. OKLAHOMA CITY.

Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden State Warriors: This is the centerpiece – literally and figuratively – of the Christmas Day extravaganza. Cleveland should be at full strength after Kyrie Irving played his first game of the season on Sunday and Iman Shumpert also returned from injury. Golden State bounced back from its first loss of the season with a blowout win over Phoenix before again being tested by Milwaukee as the Warriors avenged that loss with a comeback 121-112 win at home last Saturday.

This is a rematch of last season’s NBA Finals, won by the Warriors in 6 games. After trailing in that series 2 games to 1 the Warriors won the next two games by 21 and 13 points. This could be Golden State’s most competitively priced home game this season with a line lower than the 7.5 points by which the Warriors were favored over the Clippers in early November – a game the Warriors won by just 4.

This will be a frenzied atmosphere. The Cavs have been a streaky team all season and if they defeat the Knicks on Wednesday night will enter this game on a 6 game winning streak as they seek a small measure of revenge. Golden State will be motivated to send a message but the Cavs do present a formidable challenge when at full strength – which they were not at in last season’s Finals. CLEVELAND.

San Antonio Spurs at Houston Rockets: Overshadowed by the 24-0 start by Golden State has been San Antonio’s 23-5 start which gives the Spurs the second best record in the league. Which is surprising to absolutely nobody. The Spurs long run of excellence rivals New England for the best dynasty of the past quarter century among the major sports. Both have been marked by the long tenure of an outstanding coach and key player.

For the Spurs that combo is coach Greg Popovich and Tim Duncan. Houston showed its potential with last season’s run to the Western Conference Finals But the Rockets started slowly this season, at one time dropping 7 of 8 before beginning to play well. They’ve followed that slump by winning 9 of 13 but, to be fair, none of the wins has been over an elite team. These teams are meeting for the first time this season.

The Spurs won 3 of 4 meetings last season, including winning and covering both games in Houston. On the road the game is likely to be priced such that the Spurs make for an attractive play versus a foe they match up well against. SAN ANTONIO.

LA Clippers at LA Lakers: The long day of unwrapping gifts both under the tree and on the tube concludes with this contest between teams headed in directions that are opposite from each franchise’s history. At 4-23 only Philadelphia has a worse record than the Lakers. Kobe Bryant is playing his final season and the decline in his play has been huge. His shooting percentage is way down and he can no longer be counted upon to rally the Lakers in close games, of which there have not been many. Entering the week 16 of their 23 losses have been by double digits.

This is the first meeting of the season between these co-tenants and the Clippers will be solid favorites, perhaps close to, if not at, low double digits. The Clippers are 2-2 ATS as double digit favorites this season while the Lakers are 2-7 ATS as double digit dogs with only 2 of those ATS losses within 6 points or less of the spread.

The Clippers still play with a chip on their collective shoulder for the many years of playing second banana to the Lakers. The Clips swept 4 games from the Lakers last season that included wins by 25 and 28 points against a team better than this season’s edition. LA CLIPPERS.

Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to GamingToday readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Email: [email protected]

About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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