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NBA Christmas Day: Playoff Previews and Emerging Rookies

Christmas is a day for everyone to spend time together, celebrate faith, family, and consumerism, and now to gather and watch overpaid crybabies fake injuries. The NBA has done a great job delivering top-quality matchups for its fans on Christmas Day, and this year is no exception.

Cavaliers at Warriors 3:00 PM EST

I’m trying to avoid pessimism or negativity in my writing, but let me just get this one out of the way. We all know LeBron James is the best player in the NBA, and we all know the Warriors are the 2000s-era Yankees/the most hated team in any sport at the current moment. If you disagree with either of those, you’ll agree that this matchup has essentially been the good vs. evil matchup of the NBA for the last three years. It’s also a frustrating manifestation of the concentration of talent in the NBA, and I think we’re all getting kind of tired of hearing about it.

The Warriors, despite not having Stephen Curry, will win, then go back to focusing on the dominant Houston Rockets.

76ers at Knicks 12:00 PM EST

This game, on the other hand, will display some of the upcoming young talent in the relatively weak Eastern Conference. The 76ers are looking like the new Cavaliers (in about 5 years) with rookie phenom Ben Simmons and everyone’s favorite Cameroonian Twitter follow Joel Embiid.

The Knicks, recovering from a bitter breakup between the front office and Carmelo Anthony, have shown that there is life in New York despite shipping off what was supposed to be the corner of their franchise. Kristaps Porzingis has officially proven all naysaying Knicks fans wrong with his dominant and diverse play, and rookie point guard Frank Ntilikina has been a pleasant surprise as the Knicks keep their heads above the .500 waterline.

The matchup between Embiid and Porzingis is certainly the highlight of the game, but Simmons will continue to provide the difference in key matchups. The 76ers are currently in the midst of a 5-game losing streak, and having the big boys at full health should come together beautifully for a win over New York.

Rockets at Thunder 8 PM EST

The fact that Kevin DurantRussell Westbrook, and James Harden are headlining three separate teams on Christmas Day just adds to LeBron’s resume, as he lead the Heat to a 2012 NBA title over all three on the same team. Just saying. The Rockets are currently one of the NBA’s best teams with a 25-6 record, but have hit a bit of a disappointing stretch after back-to-back losses to the Lakers and Clippers, despite incredible performances by Harden in each game. They will again be without Chris Paul on Christmas, which could continue the skid if Oklahoma City gets their crap together.

The Thunder shocked the NBA by trading for Paul George this offseason, and many looked back to the Westbrook-Durant years for a sample of what could have been. They added Carmelo Anthony and the sky seemed to be the limit for the artist formerly known as the Seattle Supersonics. Unfortunately, they haven’t found the same cohesion that Russ and KD managed to create, and OKC is playing Utah Jazz-level basketball. Yep, I said it.

This week, Anthony took a less prominent, off-ball role that may pay dividends if it works out. Having three typically ball-dominant players is bound to cause issues, but you’d think they’d have this figured out by now. George and Westbrook are easily the better scorers of the three, and rotating around the two of them could create a new monster in the West. Despite Paul being out with injury, this could be a particularly interesting matchup, and one to keep your eyes on.

Wizards at Celtics 5:30 PM EST

The Celtics are going to win and I have nothing else to say but I suppose I should. You may remember last year’s playoffs when then Celtics big man with little girl hair Kelly Olynyk got into it with Washington’s Kelly Oubre Jr. Since then, it’s become more and more obvious that these two teams hate each other.

The Celtics roster is wildly different from what it was last year, but the rivalry is real. This won’t be a nailbiter, but it’s just a dozen injections of HGH and a large belt from the dollar store from being a WWF event. I’d say acting lessons but the NBA now resembles FIFA enough for me to leave that one out.

Timberwolves at Lakers 10:30 PM EST

This matchup last year or the year before would’ve been insanely boring, but things can change pretty quickly, it turns out. The Lakers just went through perhaps the roughest stretch of their season or anyone else’s season and showed they can hang with the likes of Golden State and Cleveland, despite a very young and growing roster.

The Wolves, with the addition of Jimmy Butler and the maturing of Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, are a real team for perhaps the first time since the Kevin Garnett days. Similar to the 76ers-Knicks game, this is a showcase of emerging talent, more than a preview of this year’s playoffs.


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