Bench Dribble Podcast: NBA Christmas games preview
All we want for Christmas is AD and LeBron to play. Here's the NBA Christmas Day preview
This week's NBA weekly wrap is focused on one thing, the upcoming Christmas Day schedule. Since last week, we've also had even more details released regarding a midseason NBA tournament and play-in games for the playoffs.
Toronto Raptors vs Boston Celtics
Go back not even a week and this looked like a prime game, even given the early start time 4:00am (AEDT). Then the dreaded injury bug hit and now the Raptors are without Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol and Norman Powell.
It doesn't necessarily mean it won't be a great game. The defending champs just climbed back from a franchise-record 30-point deficit to defeat the Dallas Mavericks. Boston is shorthanded too with guard Marcus Smart still recovering from an eye infection.
Philadelphia 76ers vs Milwaukee Bucks
There's not one, but two heavyweight eastern conference showdowns Christmas Day. Australians get to see Ben Simmons for a third straight Boxing Day game. Simmons was the subject of some harsh criticism from the American media after Philly slipped to a small losing streak last week.
Thankfully for fans, but unfortunately for the 76ers, they'll be running into the "Greek Freak" Giannis Antetokounmpo. Giannis decimated the Lakers during the juicy ESPN clash last week, cementing Milwaukee's status as the best team in the association. He also hit a career-high five three-pointers, which will have the league terrified.
Golden State Warriors vs Houston Rockets
Before the season tipped, we were excited for this game. It looked like it was going to be a track meet with points set to flow. Then the Warriors were battered by injury, which has resulted in them having the worst record in the NBA. Houston, on the other hand, has started to roll after a somewhat slower start.
While the Warriors now at least have All-Stars D'Angelo Russell and Draymond Green back on deck, they still look overmatched. We'll instead be watching to see if James Harden can break the Christmas Day record of 60 points or even get near Kobe Bryant's 81.
LA Lakers vs LA Clippers
This is the game everybody wants to have eyes on, the battle of LA. These two teams played on the opening night of the season and haven't met since. While the players have had mixed opinions on whether they're fighting for the title of LA's best team, they seem to finally be edging towards it.
The Lakers LeBron James and Clippers coach Doc Rivers had a few sly digs at each other in the media during the past week. LeBron made reference to load management and how he didn't agree with it, a clear dig at the Clippers handling of Kawhi Leonard.
Doc Rivers clapped back, defending his organisation's approach, while saying the Lakers approach to everything is whatever LeBron wants. We're now buying into the feud and conspiracy theory after the Lakers listed both LeBron and Anthony Davis questionable for Christmas Day. We entirely expect them both to play in a physical and emotional clash.
LeBron James and Anthony Davis are both questionable to play on Christmas Day.
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) 23 December 2019
Denver Nuggets vs New Orleans Pelicans
The final game on the Christmas schedule is the Nuggets and Pelicans. Again, in the pre-season, this looked like a fun game and it was nice to see two smaller markets given the spotlight. Though now, the Pelicans season has spiralled out of control.
Rookie phenom Zion Williamson would have been a large reason the Pelicans made the Christmas Day slate. He's yet to play this year due to injury and looks set to miss the entire year. Instead, fans should pay close attention to League Pass darlings, the Denver Nuggets.
They play a sexy style of basketball and star centre Nikola Jokic is one of the most fun players in the league to watch. Casual fans should make the most of the nationally televised Nuggets who're the second-best team in the west.
Also read: SBS January NBA schedule
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NBA midseason tournament
The talk about a midseason tournament just won't go away. More details leaked last week that the NBA plans to award US$1 million dollars to every player on the winning team. We still aren't fans of the idea as a whole.
One thing we do like is the idea of a play-in game for the playoffs. It was two years ago we got to see Minnesota and Denver in a win or go home game to cap off the regular season.
Sources: NBA has sent teams the proposal for 2021-22 season changes:
- 78-game regular season
- In-season tournament ($1M per player, $1.5M coaches pool for champion)
- Play-in tourneys for 7-8 playoff seeds
- Final 4 reseed in playoffs based on regular season records
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) 21 December 2019
Image Source: Kayo Sports website
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