NBA Christmas watching guide

The three games to make time for no matter what you’re doing

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It has been a weird first month of the NBA. The Oklahoma City Thunder were bad and now look well-built. That’s odd. The Los Angeles Lakers look like a losing team, but have a winning record and wrecking ball on defense in Tyson Chandler. We found out even LeBron James can’t carry an entire defense. The Boston Celtics look like garbage, but they have arguably the second-most-stacked team in the NBA.

It has made for an interesting day of Christmas matchups where certain teams seem to have found a groove and others just seem to be playing intentionally bad basketball. So don’t expect a Houston Rockets vs. Thunder matchup even if Russell Westbrook comes in on fire. The Rockets, as a result of the odd air of the season, look lost and they only keep going further away. So here they are, the three most interesting and on-paper best Christmas games.

Milwaukee Bucks vs. New York Knicks

“The Greek Freak” will look to bring great basketball back to New York when the Bucks take on a Knicks team that’s waiting to find the next great player to give a max deal. Still, the Bucks are exciting to watch but seem to be relying on the paint for most of their points. In a shooting league, the Knicks lack the shooting depth to take much advantage. Still, New York beat the Bucks last time they met.

So why watch? Because the Knicks seem to love to beat teams they shouldn’t. I’m not saying that is a guaranteed win, but the New Orleans Pelicans lost to the Knicks playing a very Milwaukee-like style with Anthony Davis. “The Unicorn” Kristaps Porzingis most likely won’t be back, so there won’t be a European All-Star showdown sadly. Still the game could be a close one if both teams play strong defense.

Philadelphia 76ers vs. Boston Celtics

Oh Kyrie Irving, what the hell is going on in Boston? This was supposed to be the one team that could beat a healthy Golden State Warriors. Now the Celtics can barely stay over .500. Irving was supposed to be the guy to take Jayson Tatum, Gordon Hayward and all those other nice Boston players and make them a super team. 

The Sixers, on the other hand, look like a team that can contest for the top of the Eastern Conference since adding Jimmy Butler to the fold. The Sixers were already touted highly coming into the year and Butler seems like a nice addition, even with his departure from Minnesota not being very clean. The issue with Philadelphia is depth. With no bench and now less of one after the Butler trade, the Sixers still matches up well with the struggling Celtics. I can still see Boston going on a winning streak and start to turn things around this month. So stay alert to see if Boston and the Sixers are playing a game for a top conference spot on Christmas.

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Golden State Warriors

Right when things look up for the high-scoring Lakers, they have a date with a Warriors team and a healthy Stephen Curry. But you know what I love about it, “LeBron the underdog” has emerged. With a scrappy team including Brandon Ingram and his million tattoos, Kyle Kuzma with his ability to do everything right except finish consistently and Lonzo Ball with a mean passing game and no other offense. It is crazy to see LeBron have literally no one who even plays at an all-star level, except Chandler on D. At least the late ‘00s Cleveland teams were built around James’ strengths, even if they floundered in the playoffs. 

And now Kevin Durant comes with the best scoring ability in the league, two guards who just wreck s--t from the backcourt and a possible-healthy Draymond Green to keep the boards coming. I see this being a shootout, not one that the Lakers can win mind you. It’ll be more of a game where a few of those players you came to see absolutely wreck house and you’re reminded why they get paid $40 million a year in the first place. Someone could honestly break a record. That is a shot in the dark, but who besides Tyson Chandler and James can defend for the Lakers? Final guess, KD drops somewhere between 102 points and 0.

Thomas Zafonte is the senior sports editor and can be reached at thomas.zafonte@ubspectrum.com and on Twitter @Thomas_Spectrum