NBA Christmas games: Breaking down the matchups

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Not much has been normal about the NBA this year, but its regular schedule of Christmas day games will at least keep one tradition going strong.

The five-game holiday slate is packed with intriguing showdowns, beginning at noon and continuing throughout the day. Here’s a breakdown of what’s on tap for the Christmas schedule:

New Orleans Pelicans at Miami Heat, Noon, ESPN

It’s Zion Williamson’s first Christmas showing after spending last year’s game still sidelined by a knee injury. While the national spotlight will be on the 20-year-old star, he may have his hands full against a tough opponent in the defending Eastern Conference champions and center Bam Adebayo, whose star rose in the bubble.

Golden State Warriors at Milwaukee Bucks, 2:30 p.m., ABC

Who drops to 0-2? Both of these teams got off to disappointing starts, with the Warriors getting blown out by the Nets and the Bucks dropping a last-second loss to the Celtics. Giannis Antetokounmpo, who missed the game-tying free throw with 0.4 seconds left, will be playing his first game in Milwaukee since signing a five-year, $228 million extension, but there won’t be any fans in attendance to shower him with love.

NBA Christmas games
Steph Curry’s Warriors will play Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Bucks as part of the NBA’s Christmas slate.
Getty Images (2)

Brooklyn Nets at Boston Celtics, 5 p.m., ABC

Could this be a potential preview of the Eastern Conference finals, or at least a playoff series? While Boston fans still must await a chance to boo a healthy Kyrie Irving for the first time since he left town unceremoniously, the actual game itself should be a powerhouse battle. Irving and Kevin Durant made the Nets look unstoppable in their season opener while Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown combined for a rather formidable 1-2 punch themselves.

Dallas Mavericks at Los Angeles Lakers, 8 p.m., ABC/ESPN

It’s a showdown between a former MVP and a potential future MVP, with LeBron James and Luka Doncic squaring off as two of the biggest and most entertaining stars in the game. The Mavericks have a ways to go before catching up to the defending champs in the Western Conference, but this should be a fun matchup nonetheless as James, Anthony Davis and the Lakers try to get back into gear following a quick turnaround.

Los Angeles Clippers at Denver Nuggets, 10:30 p.m., ESPN

If any team is going to unseat the Lakers atop the Western Conference, these two appear to have the best shot. Time will tell whether Year 2 of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard works out better than it did in Year 1 for the Clippers, but they got off to a pretty strong start against their crosstown rivals Tuesday night. The Nuggets, meanwhile, knocked the Clippers out of the playoffs last summer and are back for more with bubble star Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic leading the way.



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