The highlight of basketball’s regular season is the five-games that are part of the NBA Christmas schedule, and the league released the lineup for December 25 over the weekend. The 10 teams that are playing are not surprising. They were chosen for their star power.
Boston will play at defending champion Toronto in the first game. That will be followed by Milwaukee at Philadelphia. New Orleans travels to Denver, and that will be followed by the battle of Los Angeles, with the Lakers and Clippers. The nightcap will be Golden State at Houston.
Christmas NBA Games Odds
Boston Celtics at Toronto Raptors Toronto -2
Milwaukee Bucks at Philadelphia 76ers Philadelphia -3.5
New Orleans Pelicans at Denver Nuggets Denver -8.5
Los Angeles Lakers vs. LA Clippers Pick ’em
Golden State Warriors at Houston Rockets Pick ’em
Odds courtesy of Westgate LV SuperBook
The biggest line is Denver laying 8.5 points. Philadelphia is next at 3.5, with Boston getting two points on the road at Toronto. The Lakers-Clippers, as well as Golden State-Houston are both pick ’ems.
Knicks, Nets Out
There were two mild surprises as far as who isn’t playing on December 25. The Brooklyn Nets, which signed Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant in the offseason, were left of the schedule. Part of that has to do with the fact that Durant had Achilles tendon surgery and will be out until next year.
The other team that won’t be playing that day is the New York Knicks. They lost out on not only the Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving sweepstakes, but also the No. 1 pick in the draft. So instead of Zion Williamson, the team picked third and got R.J. Barrett.
The Knicks had been a part of the Christmas schedule nine of the last 10 years, despite having squads that were often under .500. With so many teams constructed with two or three star players, New York couldn’t compete with that and got bumped.
Lakers, Clippers Battle for LA
The most anticipated game of the day arguably could be the Lakers against the Clippers. The Lakers struck first in trading for Pelican All Star Anthony Davis. The team also added former Warrior DeMarcus Cousins.
“For us, anything short of a championship is not success,” general manager Rob Pelinka told reporters in July.
They were the favorite to win the NBA Title, until the Clippers shocked the league by not only getting coveted free agent Kawhi Leonard, but Paul George as well. They are now the 7/2 favorites to win the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Paul George did undergo shoulder surgery in June, and his return is not yet known. While he might not be ready for the season opener against the Lakers in late October, he should be back in time for the December contest.
Warriors, Rockets Showcasing Stars
Golden State wasn’t very active during the free agency period, letting Durant and Cousins go, and not really going after any high-profile players. They did resign Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, and are standing pat with what got them to the finals the last four years. They will be without Thompson, though, who tore his ACL during the finals and isn’t expected to return until the second half of the season.
The Houston Rockets were very active over the summer. They traded Chris Paul to the Oklahoma City Thunder and got Russell Westbrook. The MVP will add a new dimension to the Rockets, pairing up with former backcourt mate James Harden.