Around the world, people go to bed on Dec. 24 in hopes of waking up to an array of gifts waiting underneath their Christmas tree. Many have asked for toys, clothes, and gadgets. But for others, their Christmas wishes cannot be found underneath the tree. For NBA fans, the best gift comes in the form of a basketball game.
The first NBA Christmas game was played in 1947. The tradition has been carried out every year, with the exception of 1998 when a lockout occurred. The only other sport that hosts Christmas games is the NFL, but only when Christmas happens to fall on a weekend (and even then only does so occasionally). Every other major professional sport is either banned from playing games on this day or are not in season.
The games scheduled for Christmas often feature intense matchups and star players. This year, the five games include four of the most recent Most Valuable Players, three of the four 2019 conference finalists, and the top pick from the 2019 Draft. Even if one’s favorite team is not scheduled to play, the games are guaranteed to be worthwhile.
Boston Celtics vs Toronto Raptors
The first game, between the Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors, will air at 11 a.m. After winning its first championship this past year, Toronto seems to be a surprise for some because of Kawhi Leonard’s departure. Still, the Raptors are currently fifth in the Eastern Conference, just behind the fourth-ranked Celtics. The Celtics are being led by four-time All-Star Kemba Walker but will have to fight on Toronto’s home court. Both teams have been ranked in the top-five on defense for the past two seasons, so viewers should expect to see a battle fought through tactics.
Milwaukee Bucks vs Philadelphia 76ers
The showdown between the Bucks and 76ers, in Philly, begins at 1:30 p.m. Last year’s MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo, has held Milwaukee at first in the Eastern Conference. However, the 76ers have a stacked starting lineup, including Joel Embiid, Al Horford, and Ben Simmons. The two teams are a likely matchup in the conference finals, so this game serves as a preview for what may be to come. This game should be a thriller and is not one to miss.
Houston Rockets vs Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets will face off at 4 p.m. After being conference champions for the past five years, the Warriors have faced difficult losses this year. The team is currently ranked last in the entire league with a current record of 5-22. Houston has had some momentous games led by James Harden and Russell Westbrook. Harden recently made history with back-to-back 50 point games with ten or more 3-pointers. Viewers should expect a blowout by the Rockets, but there is a chance that the Warriors will put up a fight.
Los Angeles Clippers vs Los Angeles Lakers
At 7 p.m, the battle in L.A. begins as the Clippers and Lakers fight to see who rules the City of Angels. Lebron James and Anthony Davis have shown promising signs in their abilities to quench the Lakers’ thirst for a title. The Lakers have held the lead in the Western Conference, with the Clippers trailing behind by four games. The Clippers have risen to new heights this year; led by Kawhi Leonard (2019 Finals MVP) and Paul George. Recently, this pair became the first in franchise history to score 40 or more points each in one game. The so-called “ultimate clash of superstar duos” is a must-watch on Christmas Day.
New Orleans Pelicans vs Denver Nuggets
To wrap up the day, the Denver Nuggets and New Orleans Pelicans will square off at 9:30 p.m. The Nuggets have risen to become one of the best teams in the West, led by potential MVP contender Nikola Jokic. Zion Williamson will be making his rookie Christmas Day debut with the Pelicans. New Orleans is bursting with even more young talent, with players like Brandon Ingram in the mix. The Pelicans may be down in the rankings, but should not be completely ruled out of this game. This showcase of young talent and skill is a perfect way to end the day’s festivities.
During one of the biggest days of the NBA’s regular season, these matchups look promising. While the outcome of some of these games