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NBA on Christmas Day: Schedule, TV times, how to watch the league's annual holiday showcase

·4 min read
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  • Atlanta Hawks
    Atlanta Hawks
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  • Golden State Warriors
    Golden State Warriors
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  • Milwaukee Bucks
    Milwaukee Bucks
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  • Trae Young
    Trae Young
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NBA games on Christmas Day are a tradition nearly as old as the league itself. In its 75th anniversary season, the NBA is putting on its holiday showcase for the 74th year in 2021.

The star power on this year's schedule has unfortunately diminished in recent weeks as a number of marquee names have been sidelined by injuries or placed in the NBA's COVID-19 health and safety protocols. COVID cases have been on the rise around the league, with over 90 players in the protocols as of Friday. The league has said there are contingency plans in place should any Christmas Day games need to be shifted due to virus-related issues.

While some star players will miss the festivities, several more will be on hand for the Christmas show. So once all the presents have been unwrapped, settle in for a full day of basketball. Here's everything to know for the NBA's annual Christmas Day schedule:

Hawks at Knicks

When and where: Noon ET on ESPN, Madison Square Garden, New York

The slate begins with a matchup hit hard by COVID absences. Hawks star Trae Young is one of nine Atlanta players in the safety protocols and ruled out for Saturday. Knicks fans will miss the chance to boo Young in the teams' first meeting at MSG since last season's playoffs, when Young emerged as a New York villain and the Hawks eliminated the Knicks in the opening round. Both teams are in need of a win as they enter the game outside the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

Jayson Tatum is ninth in the NBA in scoring average, while Giannis Antetokounmpo is fourth.
Jayson Tatum is ninth in the NBA in scoring average, while Giannis Antetokounmpo is fourth.

Celtics at Bucks

When and where: 2:30 p.m. ET on ABC, Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee

After stumbling to a 6-8 start, the defending-champion Bucks have found their footing and won 15 of 20 since. And they're getting their key pieces back as Khris Middleton returned this week from a knee injury, and Giannis Antetokounmpo was cleared from COVID protocols on Friday and could play Saturday. As strong as the Bucks have been, the Celtics have had their number this season, winning the teams' two previous meetings, including a season-high 42-point outing by Jayson Tatum less than two weeks ago.

Warriors at Suns

When and where: 5 p.m. ET on ABC, Footprint Center, Phoenix

The day's marquee matchup features the NBA's two best teams with the league's two best defenses and a pair of top 10 offenses. Phoenix and Golden State have split two matchups already this season, leaving fans hoping for another exciting preview of the Western Conference finals. Devin Booker and Chris Paul have the Suns in a Christmas Day game for the first time since 2009, while Steph Curry, Draymond Green and the Warriors are playing for the ninth consecutive year.

Nets at Lakers

When and where: 8 p.m. ET on ABC/ESPN, Crypto.com Arena, Los Angeles

What may have been the day's marquee matchup will be missing some of its biggest faces. For the Lakers, Anthony Davis is out with a knee injury. For the Nets, Kyrie Irving just entered COVID protocols as he works his way back to the team. Kevin Durant is still in the protocols and out Saturday. James Harden cleared the protocols Thursday and is expected to play on Christmas, but he's been out for two weeks. That may leave the Lakers' LeBron James and Russell Westbrook as the lone stars to christen the newly renamed Crypto.com Arena.

Mavericks at Jazz

When and where: 10:30 p.m. ET on ESPN, Vivint Arena, Salt Lake City

The Christmas nightcap features another matchup missing a big star. Luka Doncic entered the COVID protocols Wednesday and likely won't suit up, leaving the Mavericks shorthanded as they scrap to stay in the West playoff race. The Jazz, meanwhile, are quietly cruising along as one of the top teams in the league (and one of the few without any players currently in safety protocols). The defense is stout as usual, but Utah has also been a machine on offense, with the league's top rating by a wide margin.

Follow Matt Eppers on Twitter @meppers_.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NBA Christmas Day schedule: TV times, how to watch, live stream