The N.B.A. showcases its stars on Christmas Day, and this yr there will probably be some big names to look at, like LeBron James, Jayson Tatum and Joel Embiid.
There may also be a recent face in the combination (Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant is playing on the vacation for the primary time) and a well-known one missing (Golden State’s Stephen Curry is out injured).
In each of the five games, there’s something to look ahead to, from young players attempting to make their mark to older foes avenging playoff losses.
Here’s what it is advisable to know.
All times are Eastern, and all games will air on ABC and ESPN. The statistics were current entering Friday night’s games.
Philadelphia 76ers at Knicks, noon
After rocky starts, these teams are finally clicking. The Knicks surged up the Eastern Conference standings on the strength of a recent winning streak, while Philadelphia was compiling a streak of its own.
They met on Nov. 4, with the Knicks winning, but Philadelphia didn’t have its two best players: center Joel Embiid and guard James Harden. That makes Sunday’s game the teams’ first true matchup. The Knicks have played on Christmas more often than every other team, but that is the primary time they may have Jalen Brunson, their big free-agent signing of the off-season.
Brunson, a guard who spent his first 4 seasons in Dallas, leads the Knicks in assists and is the team’s second-best scorer, behind forward Julius Randle. For the primary quarter of the season, the Knicks struggled to string together wins. But then December hit, and so they found their stride.
That’s when fortunes improved for the Sixers, too. Harden had missed greater than a dozen games with a foot injury but returned this month to provide several impressive games with double-digit assist totals. The Knicks will, in fact, have to look at out for Embiid as well. Last month, in a game against the Utah Jazz, he had this wild stat line: 59 points, 11 rebounds, 8 assists and seven blocks.
Los Angeles Lakers at Dallas Mavericks, 2:30 p.m.
Fans can seemingly all the time count on seeing the Lakers on Christmas — that is the twenty fourth yr in a row — but nothing else in regards to the team has been that consistent.
Whilst LeBron James, who will turn 38 on Friday, continues to defy reason along with his youthful play, minor injuries keep tugging him to the bench. Then there’s the foremost injury to center Anthony Davis, who’s out indefinitely with a sore right foot. Other ailments have rippled through the roster, and the Lakers’ sub-.500 record reflects that. However it also reflects an aging team that got off to a terrible start (0-5) and hasn’t settled right into a high-performing rhythm since then.
All of that’s to say: The Lakers have been somewhat bit all over.
Dallas has been, too. Luka Doncic is playing and scoring greater than last season, however the Mavericks are losing to bad teams right after beating good ones. The Lakers could fall into either category on Sunday. On the very least, it ought to be a fun game, with Doncic and James battling to see who can placed on the most effective show. They’re each capable of constructing even the earliest risers hold off on a midday nap.
Milwaukee Bucks at Boston Celtics, 5 p.m.
Boston’s Jayson Tatum has responded to his disappointing appearance within the N.B.A. finals last season in one of the simplest ways: by playing higher than ever before. He’s leading the league in minutes per game (37.2), and he’s putting them to good use, averaging a career-best 30.6 points per game by making about half of his shots.
The Celtics will face a Bucks team with a not-so-shabby star of its own in Giannis Antetokounmpo. Last season led to playoff disappointment for him, too, with Milwaukee falling to Boston in seven games within the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Sunday will probably be his first likelihood for somewhat revenge.
The Bucks and the Celtics are jockeying for first place within the East, though they’re fighting with different strengths. Boston has the league’s second-best offense, while Milwaukee has the third-best defense. The postseason remains to be a ways off, however it could be a surprise to not see one among these teams within the N.B.A. finals. Their Christmas matchup should help each team see what it must work on to be sure that it’s the one playing for a title.
Memphis Grizzlies at Golden State, 8 p.m.
Nobody can argue that the Grizzlies haven’t earned this, their Christmas debut.
Point guard Ja Morant is the speedy, soaring, confident heart of the team, but Memphis is greater than its brightest star — and Morant could be the primary to say so. He’s averaging a career-best 7.8 assists per game as he and his teammates keep the Grizzlies near the highest of a tightly contested Western Conference.
They finished last season because the No. 2 seed within the West and will have made a run to the conference finals if Golden State (and injuries) hadn’t gotten of their way within the second round. Sunday will probably be the teams’ first meeting since then.
Each teams have handled their share of injuries this season, but Golden State has an especially big one: Stephen Curry has been out since he hurt his shoulder against Indiana on Dec. 14, and it’s not clear when he’ll return.
Golden State is currently ranked in the underside half of the West, however the intensity of last season’s playoff series with Memphis should carry over and make Sunday’s game an excellent contest nonetheless.
Phoenix Suns at Denver Nuggets, 10:30 p.m.
The last game on a protracted day of basketball is simple to overlook. But Denver’s Nikola Jokic is bound to make at the very least one pass that may make staying up late price it. That’s form of his thing: One minute he has the ball, after which the following his teammate on the opposite side of the court does, and nobody is kind of sure the way it happened. The Suns are a top-10 defensive team, but some things just can’t be stopped.
Phoenix can also be the league’s best on offense, which could possibly be a challenge for the Nuggets, who’re among the many N.B.A.’s worst on defense. Suns guard Chris Paul is probably the greatest ever at getting the ball to his teammates. Paul led the league in assists last season, his fifth time doing so, and is averaging about nine per game this season.
If this game’s late start isn’t a deal-breaker, it ought to be a pleasant likelihood to see some excellent passing and expert shooters making good on the assist.