The holiday season is upon us and there is a lot to be merry for.
As NBA fans, Christmas day (or rather Boxing Day down under) is the most magical time of the year because we are given an absolute feast of high quality (for the most part) NBA action.
Toronto Raptors v Boston Celtics
We start the day very early with Raptors v Celtics, a clash of two Eastern Conference titans.
The Raptors have been a big surprise this season, riding the coat tales of Pascal’s Siakam’s latest Most Improved Player campaign. This team has managed to show that even without Kawhi, they are a force to be reckoned with. Siakam was dominant in the last meeting with the Celtics and went off for 33 points, Lowry is still a point guard assassin and VanVleet has really stepped up his game averaging 18 points, 7 assists and 2 steals per game this season.
The Raptors will be without their superstar in Siakam and also without Gasol but should still put up a good fight on their home court.
Against them from Beantown is the Celtics, who beat the Raptors in their earlier match up this season. Unlike the big duos in the league, the Celtics have one of the very few big threes left in the league with Kemba, Brown and Tatum. Their big three combine for around 60 points per game and when all cylinders are firing can shoot and attack at will. The Celtics are fast, have the mastermind of Brad Stevens and are damn fun to watch.
This team still is missing a truly reliable centre (sorry Kanter) but have enough other pieces to make a real run in the East.
Prediction: Celtics win by 5
Philadelphia 76ers v Milwaukee Bucks
Giannis v Embiid.
Giannis is having a season for the ages, he can shoot from anywhere now (please see Bucks v Lakers) and has a stat line of: 31.8 ppg, 12.8 rebounds and 5.4 assists. Not to mention Giannis is making a serious run at DPOY.
Meanwhile Embiid has been pressured this season to become more dominant. With a stat line of 22ppg, 12.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists, an improvement on this already impressive line will put the league on notice.
Last season when the Bucks and 76ers met, both players nearly went for 30-20 in the first meeting. Then Embiid dropped 40 points and 15 rebounds in a win where Giannis finished with 52 points. And then Giannis responded with 45 points, 13 rebounds, 6 rebounds and five blocks game to get revenge in a game Embiid had a 30-point triple-double.
This matchup is Goliath v Goliath.
But let’s not forget the supporting cast. George Hill and Kyle Korver have been vital for the Bucks off the bench, and they will need Middleton to really step up if they want to win this game.
For the 76ers, Ben Simmons has been good, but Harris and Horford have been slumping, along with a weaker Philly bench.
This game will come down to the real question of whether Horford and Embiid and stop Giannis.
Prediction: Bucks win by 7
Golden State Warriors v Houston Rockets
This is arguably the least interesting game of the schedule (along side the Nuggets v Pelicans).
Russell Westbrook and Harden will likely both get triple doubles and one of them will likely go for 40, but honestly who cares. Harden will get his free throws, Russ will throw down an emphatic dunk but against a team that is league’s worse, this should be a demolition derby.
Maybe D-Low will score 40… we can dream.
This game will be fun if you enjoy wide open threes and some big dunks.
Prediction: Rockets by 23
Los Angeles Lakers v Los Angeles Clippers
The battle of LA part two.
A preview of the Western Conference Finals.
Last time these teams met (to start the season), Kawhi and Beverly showed out and the Clippers got a close win.
But a lot has changed since then.
Paul George is back. The Clippers have mainly been taking care of business, with the best bench in the league once again behind Lou Williams and Montrez Harrell. Not to mention the mighty Claw.
Meanwhile, the Lakers are clicking with their big two (despite a close loss to the Bucks and current three game losing streak). AD is making a run for DPOY. Lebron has shown he is not the washed king and still one of the best players in the league. Caruso and Howard have been good off the bench and Danny Green has been hot.
This game will be close, but with a stronger bench and the ability to knock shots from most of the floor, the Clippers will be the favourites for this game.
Prediction: Clippers by 2
New Orleans Pelicans v Denver Nuggets
The other lesser game on this Christmas slate. If Zion was back this would be a different story, and fans around the league would care. But, he is not, and the Pelicans suck right now. They have only won 7 games this season, and besides Jrue Holiday and Brandon Ingram, the rest of the team have not been good. They have a good team but with Gentry at the helm, things are just not clicking.
Meanwhile the Nuggets are the quiet achievers once again this season. Forever a regular season team, the Nuggets have struggled to win against good teams this season, besides a recent blow out of the Lakers (without LeBron) including losses to the 76ers, Celtics and Nets most recently. They just don’t have the offensive power to get over the line at times. Besides this, the Nuggets should win this one with ease.
Prediction: Nuggets by 10