While the NFL relentlessly subjects us to the Cowboys and Lions every Thanksgiving — no matter how terrible they are — the NBA has the good sense to stuff our Christmas stockings with high-octane matchups, and this season is no different. Here’s a look at this year’s slate of Christmas games, along with a few other notable matchups later in the week.
Wednesday, December 25
Boston Celtics (20-7) vs Toronto Raptors (21-8)
Noon ET on ESPN
The Gordon Hayward Experience continues to be an emotional rollercoaster for the Celtics, as their star forward finally came back from his broken hand only to re-injure himself three games into his return, suffering a sore left foot. Meanwhile, teammate Marcus Smart is still battling an eye infection that his him quarantined at home. Nevertheless, the C’s keep winning and enter the week second in the East. The Raptors have shown an impressive amount of grit this season, shaking off the loss of Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard to fight their way into a tie for 3rd in the East. On Sunday, they pulled off a franchise-best 30-point comeback over the Mavs behind Kyle Lowry’s 32-8-10.
Milwaukee Bucks (27-4) vs Philadelphia 76ers (21-10)
2:30pm ET on ABC/ESPN3
Since losing 120-116 at home against a Luka-less Mavs squad (on a night when Giannis scored 48 points, no less) the Bucks simply started another winning streak, which kicked off with a 111-104 win over the Lakers. I think they’re gonna be OK. The Sixers snapped a three-game skid on Saturday with a 125-108 win over the Wizards. On December 8, Sixers head coach Brett Brown made it known he wanted Ben Simmons to launch at least one 3-pointer a game; the young man responded with a shot from beyond the arc on the 10th, but in six games since, has failed to get off even one. On Friday, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer lit him up on Twitter, writing, “Sixers fans should be furious about his lack of offensive development. Simmons is still a cowardly shooter, a half-court liability and a detriment to Philly’s playoff odds.” Ouch.
Houston Rockets (20-9) vs Golden State Warriors (6-24)
5pm ET on ABC/ESPN3
James Harden dropped 47 Saturday in the Rockets’ 139-125 win over the Suns, bringing his scoring averaging to 38.8 points per game. If it holds, that would be 3rd-best of all time, behind only two guys named Wilt Chamberlain. Rare is the dynasty that has crumbled as wholly and quickly as the Warriors, but one can’t help but think that when the dust settles, Steph, Klay, Draymond and whomever they get with the #1 pick in the draft will rise from the ashes like the mighty Phoenix and punish the league for their insolence. In the meantime, they snapped a five-game skid on Friday with a 106-102 win over the Pels.
Los Angeles Clippers (22-10) vs Los Angeles Lakers (24-6)
8pm ET on ABC/ESPN3
The Clips’ Paul George kicked off the season by boasting that he and Kawhi Leonard were the best tandem in the NBA, which didn’t sit well with fellow Staples Center tenants LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Unfortunately, George wasn’t on hand for the season opener against the Lakers, which the Clippers won 112-102 behind Kawhi’s 30-6-5. Since then, however, the Lakers have been a dominant force. The Lakers have the second-best record in the league and James and Davis have combined for 53.7 ppg, 16.9 rpg and 13.9 apg. With Leonard and George’ averaging 49.7 ppg, 13.6 rpg and 8.8 apg, you can decide for yourself who’s been better. Can the Clips celebrate Christmas by putting their money where George’s mouth is? Or will LBJ and the Brow continue to be the best tandem in the NBA? Tune-in to find out.
New Orleans Pelicans (7-23) vs Denver Nuggets (20-8)
10:30pm ET on ESPN
Last week, the Pelicans finally ended a 13-game losing streak with a 107-99 win over Minnesota, only to lose two days later 106-102 to the lowly Warriors. What’s worse, there’s still no date for Zion Williamson’s debut, causing Stephen A. Smith to declare that he should just bail on the whole season. The Nuggets rebounded from a brutal 1-5 stretch to win their last six in a row, most recently taking advantage of LeBron James’ absence to trounce the Lakers 128-104 in Los Angeles on Sunday.
Thursday, December 26
New York Knicks (7-23) vs Brooklyn Nets (16-13)
8pm ET on TNT
James Dolan’s reign over terror is poised to deliver its sixth straight 50-loss season; with the Knicks most recently falling 123-102 to the Bucks on Saturday, it’s almost enough to make you feel badly for Knicks fans (almost). Across the East River in Brooklyn, the Nets came into the season knowing that Kevin Durant wouldn’t play until next year, but in November, Kyrie Irving went down with a bum shoulder and hasn’t played since. Still, the Nets have managed to go 12-6 since, thanks in large part to the emergence of Spencer Dinwiddie, who’s averaging 23 points and 6 assists per game.
Portland Trail Blazers (14-16) vs Utah Jazz (18-11)
10:30pm ET on TNT
After starting the season 5-12, the Blazers have righted the ship, going 9-4 over their past 13 games, and winning their last four in a row. On Saturday they beat Minnesota 113-106, with Hassan Whiteside scoring 16 points and pulling down 22 rebounds. Rudy Gobert of the Jazz posted a 17-19 line on Saturday to lead the team to a 114-107 win over the Hornets. That was Utah’s fifth straight win after a 2-6 death spiral dropped them to 6th in the West.
Stats through Sunday, courtesy Basketball Reference