The NBA announced its Christmas Day schedule for the upcoming season, and as always, Dec. 25 will be jam-packed with superstars and outstanding matchups.
It’s an intriguing schedule with a mix of championship contenders as well as young teams with promising futures. Here’s the full rundown of what we’re looking forward to most this Christmas Day, from least exciting to most exciting.
5. Philadelphia 76ers vs. New York Knicks
Noon ET, ESPN
This game provides certainly provides intrigue for both teams. Will Joel Embiid be healthy? What about Ben Simmons? What about Markelle Fultz? If the answers to all of those are yes, then the 76ers are a team that should at the very least contend for a playoff spot in the very weak Eastern Conference. The Knicks, on the other hand, are one of the most frustrating teams in the league, and there’s still a lot up in the air. Will Carmelo Anthony still be in the Big Apple? The Knicks will score in bunches, but they’ll have trouble on the defensive end. Essentially, this could be a fun game, and Christmas in New York is awesome. Still, given that neither of these teams are contenders, their matchup finishes last.
But don’t worry, Philly fans, even getting a Christmas Day game is a sign that the process is well underway. And for Knicks fans, this could be your chance to see your team win on Christmas for the first time since 2011.
4. Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Los Angeles Lakers
10:30 p.m. ET, TNT
Good luck staying up for this one if you’re on the East Coast. The Timberwolves are much further along in their journey to title contention than the Lakers are, but the offseason additions from both franchises make this more worth your time than the 76ers and Knicks. Jimmy Butler gives the T’wolves a star forward to pair with Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, and they should be eying playoff contention this year. Head coach Tom Thibodeau also added Jeff Teague to the mix to replace Ricky Rubio. Finally, this game also serves as a return of sorts for Jamal Crawford, who spent the last five years playing in the Staples Center for the Clippers.
On the other side of things, the buzz is finally back for the Lake Show. Lonzo Ball, fresh off his Summer League MVP award, has breathed new life into the Lakers and their fans. It’s a really young team — nine players on the roster are 22 or younger — but things are looking up in the City of Angels. Plus, you never know what LaVar Ball might pull off. Can we get some Big Baller Brand ugly sweaters?
3. Washington Wizards vs. Boston Celtics
5:30 p.m. ET, ABC
This is a rematch of the epic seven-game Eastern Conference semifinal series won by Boston last season. The Wizards return everyone from their core group last year after re-signing Otto Porter Jr. and extending John Wall. And it’s a very good core at that with Wall, Porter Jr. and Bradley Beal. The Wizards are still another major piece from contending; they tried to make a run at Paul George this offseason, but were never serious threats there. Still, the Wizards are essentially a playoff lock in the watered-down East.
The Celtics, on the other hand, have made major upgrades this offseason, signing Gordon Hayward and drafting Jayson Tatum, among other moves. They’ll look to end LeBron James’ Eastern Conference reign, and they seem to have the firepower to do it.
This game features some of the best guard play the league has to offer as well as a lot of bad blood. Remember Kelly Oubre pummeling Kelly Olynyk?
There’s also the time the teams exchanged all-black “funeral” garb before their regular-season meetings. This one should be a lot of fun.
2. Houston Rockets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
8 p.m. ET, ABC
The reigning MVP runner-up faces the reigning MVP, and both have new friends. James Harden welcomed Chris Paul to Houston this offseason, creating one of the most skilled and versatile backcourts in the league. Russell Westbrook, meanwhile, has his own bona fide star teammate now with Paul George joining the Thunder.
The Thunder are looking for revenge against the Rockets, who eliminated them in the first round of the playoffs last year. The Rockets will have had plenty of time to jell with their new-look roster. The same goes for the Thunder. Can either of these two teams challenge the Warriors in the West? It’s a great matchup with tons of star power, and it could arguably be No. 1 on this list.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Golden State Warriors
3 p.m. ET, ABC
No surprises here. Even with the Warriors outclassing the Cavaliers in the Finals, even with the Kyrie Irving/LeBron James drama, even with Golden State seemingly just getting better … nothing tops this matchup. It’s the third straight year the two teams have matched up on Christmas Day, much like last year represented the third straight Dubs vs. Cavs NBA Finals. Last year, it was the Cavaliers coming out on top in a 109-108 thriller. Two years ago, the Warriors won a slugfest in the Bay.
Of course, there’s still a ton up in the air regarding this matchup, especially in Cleveland. If Kyrie leaves — and he wants out — what do the Cavaliers get in return? Will it be enough to challenge the reigning champs, much less defend Cleveland’s crown in the East? Cleveland’s roster could look very different come this game. Still, any game that features LeBron (at the very least) plus Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green is one worth putting at the top of your viewing priorities.